NRC centres victimising minorities facing dubious objections: NGO

May 15, 2019 01:37 am | Updated 01:37 am IST - GUWAHATI

Under the thumb: Poor, illiterate people are being forced to sign an undertaking saying they do not possess citizenship documents, claim activists.

Under the thumb: Poor, illiterate people are being forced to sign an undertaking saying they do not possess citizenship documents, claim activists.

An Assam-based Bengali organisation on Tuesday said some officials manning the service centres for the Supreme Court-monitored National Register of Citizens have been “making a mockery of the objection process” by forcing poor, illiterate people belonging to minority communities to sign an undertaking saying they do not possess citizenship documents.

The final phase of the exercise to update the NRC, to be published by July, involves claims and objections. Claims are for 2.89 crore people who are included in the updated list but with certain errors, while objections are for those who think certain people do not deserve to be in the list because of suspect nationality.

The NRC centres received some 3 lakh objections, almost all of them on the final day – December 31, 2018 – of the claims and objections round.

“NRC has become a tool for harassment of religious and linguistic minorities with people from one end of Assam being forced to travel to another end because of dubious objections raised by unknown people. Invariably, the objector does not turn up at the hearing but NRC officials make the poor, illiterate people sign an undertaking in English saying they do not possess citizenship documents,” said Kamal Choudhury, president, All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Federation (AABYSF).

Mr. Choudhury found this out when he himself travelled for a hearing in Guwahati from his hometown Tangla, 100 km away, after one Anup Choudhury filed an objection against him.

“They cannot do it to people who know how to read English. I demanded a documentary proof of having attended the hearing in the absence of the complainant, but the NRC centre refused to give it. What is the guarantee they won’t call us again?” he asked.

NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela did not respond to messages. But another official said he was unaware of any such undertaking.

The AABYSF said some people who signed such papers had been summoned to police stations later over “issues related to NRC”.

Such people ended up being sent to detention centres for foreigners. Even women were picked up from their homes after midnight for questioning.

“If the Foreigners’ Tribunals can give ex parte (one-sided) judgements against Bengali Hindus and Muslims, who seldom get the notice from the police in the first place, why can’t the NRC authorities reject such dubious objections ex parte? Our appeals in this regard have fallen on deaf ears,” AABYSF general secretary Ajay Bhushan Sarkar said.

Anger at BJP

“The BJP government has betrayed our trust. They used our votes to turn the machinery against us after the Lok Sabha election ended. The Bengalis have been at the receiving end for ages. If we are Bangladeshis, we must be deported. If not, stop harassing us,” Mr. Sarkar said.

The AABYSF and other Bengali organisations have demanded a clarification from Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who heads the BJP-led coalition government. Some party leaders have also suffered due to the NRC objections. Swapan Mandal, the vice-president of the BJP’s Scheduled Caste Cell, has had to appear for a hearing to justify his inclusion in the updated NRC.

Heat on indigenous too

The Indigenous Assamese people too have been facing the objection music. One of them is Ajoy Hazarika, an advocate and consumer rights activist. His wife Karabi Das and brother-in-law Bipul Das, residents of Ledo in eastern Assam, received objection notices and have had to appear for a hearing at Sarupeta in western Assam. “The complainant, Manoj Nath, did not appear. We would like to know how he got hold of our documents to claim my wife is a foreigner,” Mr. Hazarika said.

Similarly, Guwahati-based social activist Hara Kumar Goswami’s had to go to western Assam’s Barpeta Road for a hearing on an objection by one Dhanmani Kakati.

In central Assam’s Nagaon, objection was slapped on senior journalist and Nagaon Press Club member Najimuddin Ahmed. Two NRC officials in the district – Baharul Islam Majundar of Batadraba and Abdul Kasem Farazi of Nagaon – also received such notices.

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