Assam Activist Moves Supreme Court Against Harassment of Muslims in the Name of NRC

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Assam-based activist Tarek Akhtar Ansari.

The petitioner also seeks quashing of the October 2020 notification issued by the state coordinator of NRC

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — An Assam-based Muslim activist has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court seeking intervention of the apex court to stop harassment of  religious and linguistic minorities particularly Muslims in Assam in the name of  detection, determination and deportation as foreigners.

The petition by Tarek Akhtar Ansari filed last week calls for quashing the notification issued in October 2020 by the state coordinator of NRC that said that the NRC list will be updated purportedly to make way for Hindus excluded from the final NRC list published in 2020.

The petition further seeks insertion of a provision regarding methodology for identification and determination of foreigners in the Foreigners Act, 1946, and a provision under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 to ensure fair investigation while clearing doubt before making reference of a case,  serving copy of the same upon the suspected person at the time of issuing notice and also to revisit the judgment.

The 1946 Foreigners Act introduced by British colonialists was meant to exclude foreign nationals such as Japanese and Germans from citizenship in Assam. “It did not talk about Bangladesh since the country did not exist back then,” Ansari said while speaking with Clarion India.

The genesis of the issue goes back to thirty years back when Sarbananda Sonowal, who is currently a BJP MLA in the state, approached the Supreme Court alleging that Assam is swarmed by migrants from Bangladesh. He made a letter by the then state governor to the President of India as a basis of his petition.

In 2013, the apex court while giving judgement in two petitions said that the Centre and state should update the registry of citizens in Assam on the basis of Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship Rules 2003. The final NRC list was published eventually on August 31, 2019 after a daunting exercise where people had to struggle to prove their citizenship. The list excluded nearly 20 lakh residents from 3.3 crore applicants.

However, in December 2020, the state coordinator of NRC Hitesh Sarma  triggered a fresh controversy by filing an affidavit in Guwahati High Court stating that final NRC is “yet to be published” by the Registrar General of India (RGI). The affidavit said the 2019 list was a “supplementary NRC” and it included 4,700-odd ineligible names.

The petition has been drafted by Adv. Abdur Rahman Sikdar, a renowned author and lawyer of Guwahati High Court  and Adv. Shoeb lnamdar, the national coordinator of APCR (Association for Protection of Civil Rights), and filed by Adil Ahmed, Advocate-on-Record of the Supreme Court.

“Our PIL is comprehensive,” Ansari said. “The previous petitions by Muslim groups did not cover all the points.”

He said that Muslims are facing harassment because the officials never follow the court orders in letter and spirit.

The petition seeks that the officials like election officers and border policemen should be subjected to cross-examinations when they make accusations of residents being foreigners.

Ansari, who closely follows the issue of NRC in Assam, had last year written to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs demanding publication of the final list in the Registrar General of India (RGI) along with issuing identity cards to those who had made it to the NRC list.

 

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