By Nava Thakuria
After years of allegation over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation process in Assam, the court proceedings begin against the former State coordinator Prateek Hajela (for his involvement with a financial scam to the tune of over 155 crores), the system integrator (Wipro limited) and a subcontractor Integrated System and Services (ISS). Hajela, who had already got voluntary retirement from the service under Assam government, was recently summoned by the Kamrup (metro) additional district & sessions court to appear on 17 November, but he failed to do so. The district court in Guwahati has now fixed 6 February 2024 for the next hearing and even allowed the petitioner Luit Kumar Barman to bring the matter to the retired IAS officer’s notice through newspaper-advertisements. Wipro, the Indian IT company of international repute, submitted an affidavit through its representatives. However, the ISS (represented by proprietor Utpal Hazarika) was not served the summon duly and the court directed the petitioner Barman to take necessary steps.
Both Wipro and ISS face serious allegations of tempering software in the process to allow thousands of illegal Bangladeshi nationals to apply for Indian citizenship. The complainant filed the petition on the basis of the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on social, economic and general sectors for the year ending on 31 March 2020, where it pointed out irregularities on the NRC Assam updation process (May 2014 to October 2019). The highest audit body also recommended penal actions against Hajela and Wipro. Barman lodged a complaint at Paltan Bazar police station on 19 October 2022 against Hajela, Wipro and ISS for their suspected roles in money laundering. But he was not entertained and then approached the court of Kamrup (metro) chief judicial magistrate. But the concerned police officer-in-charge did not register the case. Even the Kamrup (metro) CJM court also refused to entertain his appeal. Then Barman went to Kamrup (metro) sessions court.
Amidst the debate of NRC scam, the social media users named and shamed three Guwahati-based television scribes as beneficiaries of it. Those scribes are suspected to be involved in supplying the DEOs to ISS and subsequently benefited themselves from the illegal means. People of Assam still remember how they lavishly praised Hajela as an outstanding officer and pronounced the NRC draft as the final one, even though it’s yet to be endorsed by the Registrar General of India. Every social media user argued that the DEOs must be financially compensated under the laws. Expressing concern over the development, Journalists’ Forum Assam urged the local news channel managements to clarify that no journalist of their organisations was involved with the scam, so that the audience do not perceive the entire media fraternity as corrupt.
Days back, nationalist body Bharat Raksha Manch (BRM) urged Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to approve all FIRs against Hajela to be registered against the NRC scam-stars. It also appealed to the State government to file an affidavit before the SC seeking for a complete re-verification of the NRC draft with the base year of 1951 (instead of 1971). The State unit of BRM even organised a protest demonstration in the city on 2 October demanding due legal actions against Hajela and other individuals, who are involved with the NRC updation scam. They also approached the State Governor GC Kataria with the same appeal. The petitioner however asserted that he pursues no personal enmity towards Hajela (or anyone), but he has taken it as a cause for the nation. On the next date of hearing, he plans to submit the published advertisements before the court. Amazingly, thousands of social media users extended monetary contributions for the initiative.
People of Assam will expect a correct NRC so that the illegal migrants can be identified and take necessary political resolutions over them. Otherwise, Assam will remain as a place for illegal foreigners to settle, grabbing the resources meant for the indigenous families. It should be the moral responsibility for the government and individuals in power to look into the matter seriously and adopt pragmatic policies for the benefits of local communities before it’s too late.