NRC staff‘s ‘foreigner‘ status sparks controversy

GUWAHATI: The engagement of a government school teacher, who had been declared a non-national by a Foreigners‘ Tribunal two years ago, in the preparation of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens () has sparked off a debate in the state.
Mohammad Khairul Islam, a teacher at the Lower Primary School in , was declared a non-national by the Foreigners‘ Tribunal of Morigaon in 2016. “I had challenged the tribunal‘s verdict in the Gauhati high court. The case is pending and I am out on bail,” Islam told TOI. He was attached to the NRC Seva Kendra at Mikirbheta. “I had started working for the NRC update in December last year, before the first draft was published,” he added.

After his case came to light, he was relieved of his duties.

More than 55,000 people from various government departments, majority of who are government school teachers, have been engaged in the NRC update exercise.

The district administration lay the blame on him. “Before the update exercise began, I had asked the district school inspectors for a list of school teachers who could be engaged in the process,” Morigaon deputy commissioner Hemen Das said. “The list would not contain other details, like nationality or pending cases. This teacher (Islam) should have declared his case when we engaged him,” he added.

Das said he had received complaints from some villagers that Islam was a declared foreigner. Dismissing any concerns about the update process, he added, “Islam wasn‘t doing engaged in any work at a decision-making level. He was only assisting others. After I came to know about his case, he was relieved immediately. We are re-verifying every document that might have passed through his hands.”

Earlier this month, at least 200 people from 39 families in Morigaon district were found to have made it to the final draft despite being declared foreigners or with cases pending in Foreigners‘ Tribunals. The NRC authorities have removed these names and marked them as ‘put on hold‘ till the courts clear their names.

For BJP legislator from , Shiladitya Dev, it was a moment of vindication. “I have been saying this for a long time. This only proves I was right. There are more non-nationals and D voters working with the NRC updating process,” he said.

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