Jharkhand 2019

Poll fever gives way to citizenship anxiety in Jharkhand villages

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Voters, especially Muslims, in remote pockets of the State are anxious about the hassles they could face to prove their citizenship

For Rustom Seikh, a 70-year-old resident of Yara Mommed Toli under the Udwha police station limits in this constituency in Jharkhand, the excitement of being in the middle of Assembly election has turned into anxiety. Instead, he has started scrambling for documents to prove his Indian citizenship.

Ever since the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and the talk of the implementation of the National Register of Citizens started dominating public discourse, voters, especially Muslims, in these remote pockets of the State said they had reasons to worry for.

Abdul Satar, a resident of Babutola, adjacent to Mr. Seikh’s village, exuded confidence of showing legal documents that could prove his Indian citizenship, but he is nervous.

“I do possess documents dating back to 1340 (Bengali year) and now we are in 1426. If asked we can immediately produce the land receipt and other documents belonging to the erstwhile Jamindar estate of our region. We have kept it carefully after discovering from old boxes,” said Bengali-speaking Mr. Seikh.

Mr. Satar, however, said production of documents would not entirely solve the problem. Documents have to pass scrutiny of government authorities, who are whimsical at times, he said. “I can show documents of 1890, but it has to satisfy authorities. When somebody is hell-bent on ousting us, we have to be worried.”

Gorachand Parmanik and Binod Mandol, the Hindu residents of Purbi Jamnagar village under the Rajmahal constituency, vehemently argue for the implementation of the NRC saying those who had entered India illegally had no right to stay back. Although these villagers do not share a border with Bangladesh, the distance is hardly 50 km as crow flies.

As per locals, many had moved to bordering areas of Jharkhand which shared borders with West Bengal’s Malda district, after the India-Pakistan War that led to creation of Bangladesh. Pockets of Barhait, Litpara, Pakur, Jamtara, Maheshpur and Poreyahat are reportedly inhabited by Bangladeshi immigrants. The State BJP had been regularly raising the issue of illegal immigration and its impact on land and other resources of Jharkhand.

‘Oppn. instilling fear’

Although the BJP was not able to win several of these constituencies in the 2014 Assembly poll, the saffron party is guarded in its reaction on NRC and CAA this time.

“People who had entered Jharkhand following religious persecution in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have heaved sigh of relief following the enactment of CAA. Due to narrow political considerations, Opposition parties are misguiding our Muslim brothers and sisters. They are deliberately instilling fears in Muslim community,” said Sameer Oraon, BJP Rajya Sabha member from Jharkhand, at Barhait on Sunday.

Two public meetings which were to be addressed in the region by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi were cancelled due to bad weather.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 6:46:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/jharkhand/amid-poll-jharkhand-villagers-scramble-for-papers-to-battle-caa-nrc/article30313122.ece

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