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Assam’s indigenous people hit by NRC

A child at a Seva Kendra in Barpeta in Assam on Saturday.  

Lalita Barman is a Koch-Rajbongshi, a community considered indigenous. However, that has not protected her four children – excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens – from alleged harassment in trying to prove their citizenship.

The four were summoned twice in 50 days to places more than 150 km east of their village Masua in western Assam’s Barpeta district. The last notice, served on July 28, asked them to report by 9 a.m. on July 30 at an NRC centre in central Assam’s Nagaon town, about 180 km from their village.

Ms. Barman, who ekes out a living as a domestic help, and her four children boarded a train early morning on the day of the hearing. The train was scheduled to reach their destination before 9 a.m., but got delayed. “We were turned away for reporting a couple of hours late. The officials at the NRC centre said they had other work to do elsewhere. We spent a lot to go there, but they just did not care,” she said.

Barpeta-based social activist Dhanjit Das said the NRC exercise has brought out the inhuman side of many an official.

‘Legacy data stolen’

“The family has been suffering because someone else had used their legacy data to Nishikanta Barman, the father of Lalita Barman’s deceased husband Bhushan Barman. To add to their misery, she had procured birth certificates of her children after the NRC exercise began. Many poor, illiterate villagers do not usually possess such certificates. We helped her get the certificates legally, but the NRC officials did not accept them as they were issued on the same date,” he said.

The NRC officials had on May 30 given Ms. Barman’s children 12 days to go for a hearing, but they were called to Raha in central Assam, 150 km from their village. “When they submitted all their documents at that hearing, the authorities should not have called them again at very short notice,” Mr. Das said.

Ms. Barman is not sure if her children would be called yet again. “Will they make me a non-citizen for failing to be at the July 30 hearing in time, though the reason was beyond our control,” she asked.

Similar ordeal

Pradip Kumar Bordoloi of central Assam’s Jagiroad faced a similar ordeal due to what is being seen as a clerical error on the part of the NRC authorities. He found it ironical to have been put on the list of 41 lakh people excluded from the NRC, as he had spent a week in jail during the 1979-85 Assam Agitation.

The NRC exercise was undertaken because of an agreement that ended the agitation for removing illegal immigrants from Assam.

Fatal hearings

The “sudden” summoning of thousands of people belonging to minority communities, mostly Bengal-origin Muslims in Assam, has claimed four lives and injured several. They were served notices for re-verification almost simultaneously on August 3-4 asking them to appear for hearings within 24-48 hours at NRC centres 300-500 km away.

On Monday, 60-year-old Rezia Khatun collapsed and died during her hearing in central Assam’s Kaliabor. She had travelled from Dakachang village 250 km west of Guwahati in Kamrup district the previous night.

The following day, 65-year-old Hanif Ali died after the vehicle he and his family were travelling capsized 10 km from his home in Kamrup district’s Asalpara village. They were returning from a hearing in eastern Assam’s Charaideo district 350 km away.

Again on Wednesday morning, sisters Joymon Nessa, 32, and Arzina Begum, 14, died after the mini-bus they were travelling in from Golaghat in eastern Assam met with an accident near their village in Kamrup district.

“Many people have been injured in the accidents. But the NRC has probably killed more people financially and psychologically, leaving them devastated,” a leader of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union said.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 2:50:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assams-indigenous-people-hit-by-nrc/article28979765.ece

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