Guwahati: Months after he co-ordinated the process to update the National Register of Citizens in Assam, FIRs and accusations continue to pile thick and fast on Prateek Hajela.
Some accuse him of being ‘corrupt’ and ‘imposing a threat to the nation by designating ‘illegal foreigners’ as Indians’, while others say he was involved in the ‘misappropriation of public related funds’. Yet others say he ‘deliberately axed out names of the khilonjiya bhumiputras or the indigenous sons of the soil, from the NRC’.
He has also been called a ‘white collar jihadi’.
On Monday, Assam Public Works, the NGO which led the movement to update the 1951 NRC submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court wherein it stated that the NRC not only excluded ‘indigenous’ people but included over 80 lakhs ‘foreigners’.
The affidavit also mentioned that alleged “Jihadi’s names have been included in the NRC”, along with those of “suspected and declared foreigners”.
The NGO also alleged that “fake certificates and legacies were used”, “names of doubtful voters (DV) have been included” and “huge level of corruption was done by Hajela along with his aides during the NRC’s updation process”.
APW said the fact that “Jihadi’s” names were included in the NRC posed a “threat to the nation”. The organisation also said four Jihadis were included in the NRC.
Among the four, according to APW, one is “affiliated to JMB and was arrested from Barpeta district under the Arms Act and UAPA” and the other three are affiliated to ISIS. The three, according to the affidavit, were arrested in November 2019 from Goalpara district. APW also stated the alleged Jihadis’ NRC Application Receipt Number numbers in the affidavit.
The new affidavit blames Hajela, who is APW’s bête noire.
“The previous state-coordinator in the name of protection from the Supreme Court has not allowed statutory audit of NRC as because a huge financial irregularity has been committed by him, and if an enquiry is conducted the entire irregularity shall be revealed.”
It also says Hajela “appointed retired government servants as his advisors and they were provided with new vehicles, handsome package salary and corruption took place in the process (sic)”.
APW further said that “what types of work” were done by the advisors “are not known and no records are available.”
APW has already filed three FIRs against Hajela. As many as 19 more will be filed by the group, it said. Abhijeet Sharma, president of APW, while speaking to The Wire said Hajela has done ‘irreparable’ damage to the sanctity of Assam’s indigenous demography.
APW filed a CBI case against Hajela on November 28 and a CID case on February 7. The charges levelled against Hajela include tampering with the NRC final list, duplication of software, imposing a threat to the nation with ‘making illegal foreigners Indians’, corruption and others. Yet another case was filed at the local Geetnagar Police Station in Guwahati.
In the FIR which was filed before the DIG (CID) in Guwahati on February 7, the charges which were levelled against Hajela included “tampering [with] the Final List of NRC published on 31st August 2019, disobeying the orders and directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (Order dated 13.08.2019), making a false document, causing forgery of public register and committing offences under Cyber laws for altering/changing the public records by misusing his powers and positions.”
The FIR claimed that APW inquired “into certain data and came to know about fraudulent inclusions of some names in the final NRC list.”
The names of two individuals who were declared “foreigners” according to APW in the FIR to the CID were included by Hajela by tampering with the final list “by illegally getting access into the web page by misusing his power and position.” Their status was allegedly changed from “Reject” to “Accept”.
“We have asked the apex court that updation process of NRC should be suspended till the disposal of the previous two writ petitions, for a 100 per cent re-verification of the final NRC by an independent agency, to constitute a judicial committee to detect anomalies committed during NRC, to direct investigative agencies (NIA, CBI and ED) to carry out independent investigations and to book those responsible for corruption, and for the apex court to give further orders which it may deem fit in the context of the circumstances surrounding the case,” said Aabhijeet Sharma, president of APW.
The controversy surrounding NRC and its authorities is not just limited to Hajela alone. Last week, NRC related data vanished from its web portal (nrcassam.nic.in). An FIR was also filed against a former NRC contractor for allegedly not handing over the password of a ‘very’ sensitive NRC database. The FIR was lodged by the office of the new NRC state-coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma on the basis that despite having been served with multiple written reminders, the contractual employee did not provide the authorities with the password to the database.
The Wire contacted Hitesh Dev Sharma who said, “I don’t want to discuss the case. We have filed the FIR. If one needs information on the case, then contact the local thana where the case was filed.”
It is not just APW which is against Hajela. Sodou Asom Goriya Moriya Yuva Chatra Parishad, an Assam based student and youth group council for Assam’s indigenous Muslims too filed an FIR against him. Another individual, a Dibrugarh-based businessman, also filed an FIR against Hajela and other NRC officials over exclusion from the list.
The group’s contention was that he ‘deliberately’ excluded names of Assam’s indigenous people. The case was filed last September, and the police registered a case ‘under sections 167, 506 and 34 of the IPC after a complaint from an organisation.’
The Wire spoke to Moinul Haque who is the general secretary of the group said, “Despite having valid papers many indigenous peoples’ names were excluded from the NRC. It was a deliberate exclusion and we blame Hajela for it. Let the law take its own course.”
There are, however, some who feel that Hajela has been made a scapegoat. Sheikh Heduyetullah, the president of the Desi Janagusthi Mancha Assam, another group representing indigenous Muslims of the state said, “The ire against Hajela is illogical. He is just an official, a bureaucrat who has been made a scapegoat. The Supreme Court-ordered him to do the NRC and he did it within the framework. I feel he has been made as a sacrificial bait and a scapegoat.”
Hajela refused to discuss the matter when The Wire reached out to him.