Published On: Tue, Nov 19th, 2019

New Assam state coordinator yet to join, NRC Authority headless for week

Guwahati: Newly appointed NRC Assam state Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma, who is embroiled in a row over his alleged social media posts criticising the updation work of the National Register of Citizens, has not joined office, official sources said on Tuesday.

The new Assam state NRC Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma has not joined yet.

Sarma, an Assam Civil Service officer, was appointed on November 9 as the NRC State Coordinator in place of Prateek Hajela who was released from his duties two days later.

The office of the NRC Authority is headless for more than a week.

“The new State Coordinator has not joined yet. We have not received any official communication regarding his date of joining,” an official at the NRC Authority told PTI.

Sources said Sarma has not stepped into the office of the NRC Authority here after his new appointment. He had earlier served as its executive director from 2013 to 2016.

“We are clueless about when he will join. We have come to know from media reports that he is on a month-long leave,” the official said.

Repeated calls to the Commissioner of the Personnel Department which is responsible for appointments of government officials, remained unanswered.

At present, NRC Authority Executive Director Chandana Mahanta is the in-charge of the NRC Authority and looking after the day-to-day affairs since Hajela, the previous State Coordinator, was released.

Hajela, an IAS officer, was transferred to his home state Madhya Pradesh following a direction from the Supreme Court which supervised the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Published on August 31, the updated final NRC, which validates bonafide Indian citizens of Assam, has left out over 19 lakh applicants.

Sarma has his task cut out as those who have been excluded from the NRC have 120 days to appeal against it at Foreigners Tribunals. If not satisfied with the verdict of the tribunals, they will have the option to move the High Court and the Supreme Court for redress.

Opposition Congress and other organisations have opposed the appointment of Sarma alleging that he had uploaded “highly partial and controversial” posts on social media.

Congress Lok Sabha Member Abdul Khaleque shot off a letter to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal demanding cancellation of Sarma’s appointment for those posts.

Addressing a press conference on November 13, Khaleque showed social media posts purportedly written by Sarma, and alleged that the posts criticised the NRC process and were controversial in nature from religious, linguistic and ethnic point of view.

“We cannot expect such updates from a government official. If the government wants peace in the state and wish that peoples’ faith remains in the government, then Hitesh Dev Sarma’s appointment should be immediately cancelled,” the senior Congress leader had said.

Assam has seen a huge influx from other places, particularly Bangladesh, since the early 20th century. It did not stop even after Independence, with a large number of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, both Hindus and Muslims, settling there.

Identification, detention and deportation of such immigrants was a major demand over which the All Assam Students Union (AASU) launched a 6-year movement which ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.

In 2009, an NGO, Assam Public Works (APW), filed a petition in the Supreme Court praying that names of 41 lakh foreigners be deleted from the electoral rolls of Assam and the NRC updated.

In response to the petition, the Centre told the apex court that the 1951 NRC was being updated.

The Supreme Court in 2013 took up the APW petition and directed both the Central and state governments to begin the process for updating the NRC and the actual work began two years later.


About the Author