Man leading Union Territory demand in Barak Valley, family of cops among those left out of NRC draft
Sanjit Debnath, the most prominent advocate pushing for Bengali-speaking Barak Valley to break away from Assam is among the more than 40 lakh people who have not made it to the second and final draft of the National Register of Citizens or NRC.
Debnath (64) is the president of the Union Territory Demand Committee, an organization which has been asking that Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi be declared a Union Territory.
The three districts were part of erstwhile Cachar which remained with India as the rest of Sylhet decided to go with East Pakistan following a referendum in 1947.
Debnath is angry. “I served the Assam government for 40 years. My father was a freedom fighter here. We have been living for at least three generations,” he said adding how not only him and his family but a total of 18 members in his extended family too have not made the cut in the draft list.
He worked as a clerk at the office of the Inspector of Schools, in Silchar.
Debnath and his family including his six brothers and a sister were asked to come to a verification centre. “They found everything okay,” he said.
There is similar angst in the Sinha household in Ambika Pur village on the outskirts of Silchar. “Yesterday, they called us foreigners. Are we foreigners? Can they tell us which country we belong to?” asks Birendra Kumar Sinha, a retired sub inspector of Assam Police.
Sinha’s children, his brother Subal Sinha, a sub inspector in Assam Police and his family, too, do not feature in the draft. Adding insult to injury, some villagers questioned his antecedents, Sinha claims.
The family belongs to the Bishnupriya community which migrated to Silchar from Manipur. They claim they have been living here for generations. “My father was a gold medalist cop in the Assam Police,” he said showing a bunch of certificates including the pension documents of his father dated 1967 issued from an office in Shillong, the erstwhile capital of Assam.
Ironically, Sinha had been a prosecuting officer in the foreigners’ tribunal at Cachar which adjudicates on cases of suspicious illegal immigrants. “Are we Bangladeshis despite so many years of our service?” he asks.
“They have included names of foreigners but excluded Indian citizens,” Debnath claims. “NRC had to be done since there was an SC order. But they are doing it badly,” he added.
“If genuine Indian citizens are harassed and deprived why should the people of Barak Valley stay with Assam?” Debnath asks as he rues how he will to make rounds of the NRC documentation office again. “I will have to go with the same documents yet again,” he said.
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