Clueless border police raises doubts of NRC being free of illegal foreigners
While the state awaits publication of the second National Register of Citizenship (NRC) draft list, the big question that is surfacing is whether it will be possible for the authorities to publish an NRC that is free of illegal foreigners.
In a petition dubbed as “astonishing” (wherein a previously declared foreigner’s name was found included in the part draft NRC that was published on 31st December 2017), the Gauhati High Court had observed that there appeared to be lack of coordination between the different agencies that are engaged in helping the state coordinator of the NRC, Prateek Hajela, in identifying “illegal foreigners” residing in Assam.
In a peculiar incident, the name of one Ali Ahmed, who had earlier been declared a foreigner by a foreigners’ tribunal, was found to be enlisted in the part draft of the NRC published by the government of Assam on 31st December 2017.
Ahmed was declared an illegal immigrant by a foreigners’ tribunal in Sivasagar District in 2011- a verdict which was also later upheld by the Gauhati High Court.
Ali Ahmed, in a bid to shed his “declared foreigner” tag, filed a review petition in 2018 mentioning that his name appeared from Lahorighat constituency in the part draft of the NRC that was published on 31st December 2017.
Though Hajela had blamed the border police for the lapse, this kind of development raises questions of whether the NRC will free of foreigners’ names. Ahmed is the only declared foreigner who went to the court saying that his name was enlisted in the first draft list and accordingly the matter came to the notice of the authorities. But what if there are other declared foreigners whose names are on the list and who have not approached the court?
Recently talking to a local news portal, Prateek Hajela revealed that they had detected and successfully foiled the attempts of around 4,288 illegal migrants who were trying to include their names in the first draft NRC through various fraudulent means.
There are many other declared foreigners in Assam who are missing and no one knows where they are. Once a person is declared foreigner by the foreigners’ tribunal, the border police are expected to put them in the designated detention centres. “The border police are clueless about the whereabouts of many declared foreigners,” said a senior level police officer in Assam Police.
Foreigners absconding with help of various nexuses
It is clear that a huge number of declared foreigners are untraceable. This raises the question as to why the border police did not keep a check on these declared foreigners.
A senior level police officer, under condition of anonymity said, “There are many nexuses involved in helping the foreigners to remain absconding.”
He said that as soon as the foreigners’ tribunal declares someone as a foreigner, the border police are expected to restrain the free movement of the foreigner. But it does not happen that way because the police fail to locate the foreigner in the first place.
He explained that as soon as the police doubt an individual to be a foreigner, the papers are checked, and if found doubtful, a case is registered. He said that many lawyers help the doubtful foreigners to procure documents illegally.
Also, when the case is forwarded to the foreigners’ tribunal, the tribunal sends notices to the doubtful foreigner. In such instances, the lawyers immediately ask their “clients” (doubtful foreigners) to change their addresses. Later, when the tribunal, after having sent notices repeatedly, declares the person as a foreigner, the police are unable to find them.
He revealed that in some cases, even police officials are corrupt and after taking huge amounts as bribes, they let the foreigner go.
The foreigners keep shifting to different locations and with illegal means, procure various documents and even register their names in the voters’ list. Many of them even have the voters’ card.
The problem has occurred as previously there was no proper database.
Police to share foreigners’ data base with all agencies
The Assam Police border department has claimed that within the next month they will share a database of all the declared foreigners with all the agencies.
Special Director General of Police (Border), RM Singh said, “We are preparing a database of the declared foreigners and it will be shared by all the agencies of the state and central government by next month.”
He said that after the database is prepared and shared with all the agencies, the foreigners will not be able to enrol their names anywhere because the government departments will check the database before providing any document.
Interestingly, after the Ali Ahmed case surfaced, the Gauhati High Court asked the chief secretary to the government of Assam to convene a meeting. The Director General of Police, Assam, Special Director General of Police (Border), Assam, state coordinator for NRC, Assam chief electoral officer, principal secretary to the government of Assam, (home and political) and additional chief secretary to the government of Assam, (in-charge home and political department) were asked to discuss the issues and find a solution. Sources revealed that the meeting was convened but there was no representation from the police.
Sources also revealed that after the meeting it was decided that the state coordinator for NRC will also maintain such a database.
The NRC process is in its final stage and the confusion regarding who is a declared foreigner and who is not still requires scrutiny.