Assam police to probe complaint about spread of misinformation on NRC, seeking donations
Police in Assam will start an investigation into a complaint about the spread of misinformation about the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process and collection of donations using social media to help applicants file application against missing names.
The move follows a complaint filed on Tuesday by Dulal Borah, an RTI activist, with the criminal investigation department (CID) of Assam police naming three people for seeking donations to be sent to two bank accounts to help NRC applicants.
“We have received the complaint. Once it is processed, an officer will be assigned to investigate,” said LR Bishnoi, additional director general of police heading the CID.
Bishnoi said the investigation would look into the allegation of misuse of social media in connection with the NRC process.
The NRC, which was first prepared only for Assam in 1951, is being updated under the supervision of the Supreme Court to identify Indian citizens and weed out illegal immigrants.
The first draft NRC released in July last year had excluded the names of 40 lakh of the 3.39 crore applicants who had sought inclusion in the list. Another list published in June this year excluded another 1 lakh names from the list. The final NRC list is to be published on August 31.
Borah alleged in his complaint that prior to the publication of the final list some ‘anti-national elements’ were spreading fear among NRC applicants regarding the hearings conducted during the process.
Earlier this month, thousands of people across Assam received notices from NRC asking them to appear for re-verification of their details at centres located several hundred kilometres away from their homes within the next two to three days.
Borah claimed that the ‘anti-national elements’ tried to give a communal tinge to the exercise on social media posts and are seeking donations to provide help to these applicants.
The complaint said Rehna Sultana, a PhD scholar of Gauhati University, Sofiqul Islam, another student of the same university, and Mausumi Chetia, PhD researcher based in The Hague, Netherlands, have been seeking donations using social media platforms.
Sultana is already facing two more police complaints. She is one of the ten poets named in an FIR filed in July who is accused of writing poems to incite communal tension.
Another complaint was lodged against Sultana on Wednesday for a Facebook status she posted in 2017 and deleted a day later allegedly praising Pakistan and commenting about consuming beef.
Hindustan Times wasn’t able to contact any of the three named in the complaint to get their comments.
Borah says two bank accounts, one of State Bank of India’s Gauhati University branch and the other of a Canara Bank account in Barpeta, are being used to collect donations to help NRC applicants.
“At a time when the chief minister and even the DGP have issued instructions against the misuse of social media to spread misinformation about the NRC process, it is surprising people are doing just that and even seeking donations,” said Borah.
Citizens for Justice for Peace (CJP), a human rights NGO which is highlighting problems faced by some applicants during the NRC process, is also seeking donations to provide legal aid to those left out of the final list.
It hasn’t been named in Borah’s complaint.
Senior journalist Mrinal Talukdar pointed out that the number of those left out in the NRC list may grow.
“In a fortnight from now when the NRC final list is published, the names of a large number applicants, those whose names didn’t figure in the earlier draft lists, could go missing,” Talukdar said.
“All those who are left out will files cases in courts seeking inclusion in the list. Even by conservative estimates, the legal fees for that process would run into several thousand crore rupees. Many firms are already eyeing that. Some of them could be dubious too,” he added.