Assam Public Works (APW), the main petitioner in the NRC case, on Monday wondered why thousands of people had to be served with notices for hearing at the eleventh hour when the NRC state coordinator had himself told the Supreme Court that re-verification was not necessary.
“Had the honourable Supreme Court not extended the deadline after the July 23 hearing, then these people would have figured in the updated NRC. This eleventh hour summoning has raised doubts about the entire update process, for which a re-verification is required,” APW president Aabhijeet Sharma told The Telegraph.
He said the only reason for the sudden hearing could be a last-ditch effort to increase the number of exclusions from the updated NRC, which is to be published on August 31.
Sharma is the second person, after leader of Opposition leader Debabrata Saikia, since Sunday to have expressed surprise and concern over the latest round of NRC hearing.
In a letter to Assam chief secretary Alok Kumar on Sunday, Saikia had said, “The latest and sudden exercise of apparent re-verification is bewildering because the Supreme Court categorically stated less than a fortnight ago that there was no need for re-verification even on a limited scale because 27 per cent re-verification has already been carried out by the NRC authority.”
An elderly woman tries to get on a handcart.
Talu Necha, a 106-year-old woman, shows her NRC documents on Monday.
Sharma said the recent round of re-verification notices has once again fuelled apprehension about the correctness of the NRC update process and, as such, requested the apex court to revisit its ruling to reject the re-verification demand.
“The next hearing is on August 7 and we will request the court to go for re-verification within a stipulated deadline. We have waited 35 years for the NRC. I see no reason why we can’t wait for another three months so that we can have an error-free, foreigner-free NRC,” he said.
Hajela had told the Supreme Court on July 23, during the hearing of a plea by the Centre and the state government for a sample re-verification of 20 per cent of applicants from areas bordering Bangladesh and 10 per cent elsewhere, that re-verification was not necessary.
Sharma also dubbed the move to ask NRC applicants from lower Assam to travel to far-off places in Upper Assam to attend hearings as nothing but harassment.
“This is harassment. Why do we need to ask people from lower Assam, most of them poor, to travel to places as far as 500-600km for the hearing? Instead, two-three officers from places where the hearings have been scheduled should have been sent to lower Assam,” the APW chief said.
The APW had filed a case in 2009 to weed out illegal migrants from the voter list. The first draft of the NRC was published on December 31, 2017, comprising 1.9 crore names out of 3.29 crore applicants. The complete draft, published on July 30, 2018, saw the exclusion of 12.15 per cent or above 40 lakh applicants. Last month, 1.02 lakh names were excluded from the completed draft.