Dorthy Suichang, additional deputy commissioner, Kamrup district, where about 25,000 notices have been issued, said, “The hearings are part of mopping up exercise.”
Thousands of people across Assam received re-verification notices on Saturday asking them to appear before the designated authorities, some outside their home districts in the next 24 hours as against the earlier 15 day period, officials and recipients of the notices, said on Sunday.
Dorthy Suichang, additional deputy commissioner, Kamrup district, where about 25,000 notices have been issued, said, “The hearings are part of mopping up exercise.” Aditi Gogoi, Circle Officer of Chamaria in Kamrup district, said they have issued notices as directed by National Register of Citizens (NRC) office. “We just printed notices as they came to us from the state coordinator’s office,” she said.
State NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela did not respond to phone calls about the latest re-verification exercise being done less than a month before the final draft of the NRC is to be released on August 31.
The notices come weeks after state coordinator Hajela’s report to the SC in July where he said 27% reverification has already been done responding to state and Centre’s demand for 20% re-verification in border districts and districts having seen unusual population growth. The SC had turned out the demand of Assam government and the Centre citing Hajela’s report.
On Thursday, Hajela came under attack from the BJP MLAs in state Assembly for not allowing 20% re-verification in the border districts. In a statement, cabinet minister Chandra Mohan Patowary alleged rampant misuse of legacy documents for inclusion in the NRC, while releasing the district-wise list of exclusions and inclusions in the NRC draft released in July 2018.
All the persons Hindustan Times spoke to, however, claimed that during earlier hearings they had to travel within the district and that they had no connection in districts where the hearings have been scheduled.
On April 10, the SC in its order requested the state coordinator to ensure that no inconvenience is caused to the persons required to attend the hearing and to see that they are not required to travel long distances, if possible.
Basir Ali (29), a resident of Sontali in Kamrup district of lower Assam, received the notice on Sunday, said he has been asked to reach Jorhat about 350 kms away in the next 24 hours. “There is no vehicle, no bus, and I have no money. I don’t understand why I have been called so a far away on such a short notice,?” asked Ali, a small farmer.
The notice mentioned that document submitted by Ali to establish his residence in Assam prior to March 25,1971, the cut-off date under NRC rules, need reverification under NRC rules and at least one member of his family should be present. Ali, meanwhile, is planning his travel with his entire extended family of 30.
In Majortop village in Goroimari, 58-year-old Ujufa Begum, had been asked to come to Moranhat in Dibrugarh, 450 kilometres by 11 am on Monday. “I cannot go,” she said.
Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia, in a letter to the Chief Secretary Assam said the exercise was bewildering as he reminded that only a fortnight ago Hajela had told Court about 27% re-verification.
“This apart, in view of persistent attempts by some political leaders to project a specific section of people as foreigners on the basis of suspicion alone, there is a possibility that these people might be branded as illegal migrants and attacked by nefarious elements after they arrive in Upper Assam to attend the NRC hearings,” Saikia wrote demanding that the state government make sure security concerns are addressed.
Senior cabinet minister and Assam government spokesperson Chandra Mohan Patowary said, “I am not aware of this development.”
Officials in various districts said they have been informed about the massive re-verification exercise. “We are prepared,” said a senior district official in Sivasagar which will host many hearings this week.