Post-1971 migrants too find their names in NRC list
There seems to be no end to anomalies in the final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), which was published on July 30.
After reports of how 200 doubtful voters and declared foreigners found a place in the draft in Muslim-dominated Morigaon, contrary to the directions of the Supreme Court, families who claim to have come after March 25, 1971, the citizenship cut-off date in Assam, have still managed to get their names in the NRC draft.
Bimal Das (32) claims he came to Assam about 25-26 years back. “I do not remember the exact year when we came from Bangladesh. I was too young,” Das, a resident of a settlement on Silchar’s Ashram road, said.
While Das is in, but in line with several other instances, his two sons and his mother are not part of the draft. “Sons Bikash and Biki are not there,” he said.
Bimal Das showed the legacy document (a document used to establish the lineage to pre-1971), a 1971 voters list which has the name of his father Shashi Das registered as a voter in North Karimganj. The son gave his voters identification card to establish his linkage. But he claims he has no memory of his father.
“He passed away when I was too young. We lived in another settlement in Silchar town then.”
Bimal Das’ daughter, however, managed to make it along with wife Shipu Choudhary, who submitted a gram panchayat secretary certificate — a document submitted by married women as a proof of their residence in absence of other documents after a Supreme Court order — from Irongomara village in Cachar.
A similar claim was made by Promila Das. “My husband came from Bangladesh,” she said.
Her 42-year-old husband Dhuroni Das pulls a cart. Promila claims she was born in Cachar. In this family, too, the 19-year-old daughter Pronobi Das has been left out while the rest of the family including the husband’s names are in the draft.
S Lakshmanan, the deputy commissioner Cachar says there are many possibilities of how those who came after March 25, 1971 could have made it to the NRC draft. “But anyone can file an objection but the onus of proving it is on one who files it,” he said pointing to the claims and objections exercise which will start from August 7, to verify the problems in the draft which excluded 40,07,707 people.
The NRC Nagrik Seva Kendra at Ambikapur village, under which this settlement falls, saw 30% people excluded. Cachar district, with a 63% Hindu population, has seen around 13% of the 2,28,000 people not finding their names in the final draft list.
“It was from this settlement that we detected a large number of fake documents,” said Subhash Chandra Sinha, an official working at the Seva Kendra.
Contrary to Brahmaputra Valley, where the ‘anti-Bidexi’ (anti-foreigner) narrative is shrill and demands for their deportation have been routine since the Assam Accord in 1985, a section of people in Bengali-speaking Barak Valley seem accommodative.
Barak Valley districts have seen several waves of migration, especially after Partition when Hindus, who became a minority, first in East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, crossed the border to escape persecution.
“We supported the Citizenship Amendment Bill because of atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh,” said Shyamal Das, a former councillor in Silchar’s Kalibari Char, even as he maintained that none of the 10,000 people there have come after 1971.
The Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, would make attaining citizenship easy for religious minorities (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians) who have come to escape ‘religious persecution’ in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Bill is stuck after it was referred to a joint parliamentary committee post protests on its anti-constitutional nature, especially in Brahmaputra Valley.
But, Muslims, who have been living in Barak Valley for generations blame these outsiders for all the problems. “Thirty years back there was nothing... NRC is good. Outsiders come and create trouble. We had no communal problem with the locals,” says Fatehuddin Laskar, as he pointed to the shanties in Kalibari Char which has seen sporadic cases of low intensity communal conflagration since 2017.
“If they accommodate us it is good, but it’s also okay if they don’t,” he said. “But it has been so many years since we came. Where will we go back?” he asked.
“I hope my children also make it through in the next round,” Bimal said.