Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday blamed the Assam government for releasing National Register of Citizens (NRC) state coordinator Prateek Hajela without handing over charge to his successor.
Hajela demitted on Monday and left for his home state Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday on a three-year deputation according to the Supreme Court’s instruction. Before Hajela’s departure, the Assam government had appointed state civil service officer Hitesh Dev Sarma as his successor, but he is yet to take over charge.
“How can the government let Hajela go without someone taking over charge from him? Who is looking after the NRC matters these days? I wonder if the NRC office has become a non-functioning department,” he said.
Gogoi’s anguish has come at a time many are asking what will happen to the rejection certificates to be issued by the NRC authorities to the 19 lakh people whose names have been dropped from the final NRC.
“What has become of the rejection certificates? Over two months have passed since publication of the final NRC,” Gogoi said.
A rejection certificate is a crucial document for a person whose name has been left out of the final NRC as it will enable him to approach a foreigners tribunal to fight for his citizenship.
Hajela had in September sent standard operating procedures to the district registrar of citizen registration, stating how and when to complete the required official work regarding sending all documents in connection with the rejection certificates. The process was to be continued throughout October, making it clear that issuance of rejection certificates was unlikely before November.
Pointing out controversies regarding Sarma’s Facebook posts, Gogoi said a person assigned to an important post like NRC coordinator should be an acceptable figure for everyone.
“Besides, there were many other senior officials in the state government. The government should have appointed a senior official,” he said.
Gogoi reiterated that the final NRC was a “faulty” document with names of many Indian citizens missing. He also criticised the BJP for pushing for passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament, claiming it would render the NRC to waste paper.
“The people of Assam had hoped that they would get an error-free NRC under Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is from Assam,” he said. The apex court has been monitoring the NRC update exercise.
Meanwhile, the CPM on Thursday demanded the state government immediately remove Sarma. The party demanded the appointment of an efficient and “unbiased” official as the NRC coordinator.
The party has also asked chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to initiate a probe against his alleged remarks on social networking sites. The CPM alleged that some of Sarma’s online posts were biased and were against the sentiments of a particular community.
Additional reporting by Pranjal Baruah