Data from the final list of Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC) has vanished from it's official website.
An ANI report quoted the Home Ministry as saying that the data was safe, and explained that owing to some "technical issues" in visibility on cloud it was not available at present.
"These are being resolved soon," a home ministry spokesperson said.
NRC State Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma accepted that the data have been made offline, but refuted the allegation of any "malafide" intent in it.
Officials said that the data had been made offline due to non-renewal of contract with the IT firm Wipro.
"The cloud service for the huge set of data was provided by Wipro and their contract was till October 19 last year. However, this was not renewed by the earlier Coordinator. So, the data got offline from December 15 after it was suspended by Wipro. I assumed charge on December 24," Sarma told PTI.
Following the formation of the final list, the data had been published on August 31, 2019. The complete detail of exclusion and inclusion of bonafide Indian citizens in the NRC was uploaded on its official website 'www.nrcassam.nic.in'.
After the data became unavailable in the last couple of days, the opposition Congress called it a "mystery" and suggested that it was a "malafide act".
Leader of the Opposition in Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia wrote to the Registrar General of India and requested him to look into the matter urgently.
"It is a mystery as to why the online data should vanish all of a sudden, especially as the appeals process has not even started due to the go-slow attitude adopted by the NRC Authority. There is, therefore, ample scope to suspect that the disappearance of online data is a malafide act," he wrote in a letter.
Calling the disappearance of the data prior to the appeals process "prima facie a deliberate violation" of the Supreme Court's directive, Saikia also said that this act "also violates the rules pertaining to the NRC, which stipulates various processes post publication of the NRC."
Sarma however has an explanation. The cloud service for the huge set of data was provided by IT firm Wipro and their contract was till October 19 last year. However, this was not renewed by the previous coordinator, Prateek Hajela. So, the data got offline from December 15 after it was suspended by Wipro, Sarma said.
"Once Wipro makes the data live, it will be available for public. We hope people will be able to access it in the next 2-3 days," Sarma said.
The final NRC was published by excluding 19,06,657 persons. A total of 3,11,21,004 names were included out of 3,30,27,661 applicants. After the earlier NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela relinquished the charge on November 11 following his transfer to home state Madhya Pradesh on a direction from the Supreme Court, Sarma was appointed in his place on November 9.
However, Sarma did not join immediately and went on a month-long leave after the Congress and other organisations opposed his appointment due to his alleged "highly partial and controversial" posts on social media.
(With inputs from agencies)