National

Disasters in two West Bengal districts keep some women out of Assam NRC

Villagers of Gorbheter and Bherveri in Assam protest over non-inclusion of their names in the NRC.

Villagers of Gorbheter and Bherveri in Assam protest over non-inclusion of their names in the NRC.  

Jalpaiguri had in 1968 experienced a disastrous flood. And in 1974, a fire razed much of the District Magistrate’s office in Cooch Behar, the headquarters of the district of the same name.

Two disasters — one caused by water and the other by fire — in adjoining West Bengal districts six years apart may have kept several women out of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) released on August 31.

Jalpaiguri, the district headquarters, had in 1968 experienced a disastrous flood. And in 1974, a fire razed much of the District Magistrate’s office in Cooch Behar, the headquarters of the district of the same name.

Surviving flood

Runa Saraswati survived the Jalpaiguri flood to be married into one of Guwahati’s oldest Bengali families. Now 68, she feels she probably lived this long for her identity as an Indian to be “erased” by a deluge of a political kind with judicial sanction — the NRC.

The Saraswatis were among five Bengali families that had come to Guwahati from undivided Bengal in 1800s. Decades later, the Saraswatis became the first to export Assam’s indigenous silks. Their documents dating back to more than a century made them confident of being included in the NRC. All members were in, except for Ms. Saraswati.

 

“We should get to know the cause of her rejection from the NRC authority in a few days, but there is a possibility that the West Bengal authorities could not verify her documents when they were sent from Assam for vetting,” her son Rudip Saraswati told The Hindu.

“Mother said the flood of 1968 destroyed Jalpaiguri town and many lost their documents. Most importantly, the records room in the District Magistrate’s office was completely damaged. Whatever is the cause, she has broken down psychologically,” he said.

The 65-year-old Madhabi* Bose, married into a middle-class family in Guwahati’s Kalapahar area, too has been left out for a similar reason. She is from Cooch Behar, from where many documents of people born before 1974, the year the DM’s office caught fire, could not be verified.

NRC officials accuse West Bengal of ‘laxity’

Many Bengali women find their names excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and NRC officials blame it on West Bengal authorities.

“Many Bengali people are now suffering because of the laxity on the part of West Bengal officials in verifying their documents over the years. In case of Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri, the district officials expressed their inability to certify old land and other records as they were lost to disasters,” an NRC official said on condition of anonymity.

 

Several women from Meghalaya married in Assam too have missed the NRC bus, many due to the State’s inability to verify their documents.

Meghalaya legislator S.G. Esmatur Mominin has asked Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma to urge the Assam government to set up Foreigners’ Tribunals exclusively for such women.

“The Meghalaya government should also ask its Assam counterpart to submit the list of the Meghalaya women who submitted the NRC documents and let them withdraw their names so that Meghalaya can update their names when it takes up the NRC exercise,” Mr. Mominin said.

*(Name changed on request)

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 10:23:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/disasters-in-west-bengal-districts-keep-some-women-out-of-assam-nrc/article29325483.ece

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