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NRC investigation in Assam: The unbearable being of a D-voter

Najima Khatun waits with her child outside an NRC verification centre in Morigaon.   | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Mohammed Nurul Islam is one of several Assam government school teachers and officials engaged in family tree verification, a vital part of the updating of the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC). But he is possibly the only NRC investigation officer entrusted with weeding out illegal migrants while carrying a Doubtful-voter (D-voter) tag.

Therein, rights activists say, lies one of the many tales of a random selection of “foreigners” in Assam to be allegedly harassed or fleeced until proven a citizen by the court.

Doubtful voters, or D-voters, are those who have been disenfranchised during electoral roll revision for their alleged lack of proper citizenship credentials with their cases pending in one of 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) across Assam. Once adjudged a foreigner, a person is sent to any of six detention camps — within jails — before deportation.

 

A resident of Kalgachia in Barpeta district of western Assam, Mr. Islam is a postgraduate teacher at Paschim Moinbari Higher Secondary School in the Baghbor area of the district. He was engaged as one of the 4,300 investigation officers in February.

“As soon as I get released, I will fight the D-voter tag slapped on me in 1997. Besides not getting adequate leave to pursue my case, I took 21 years to find out which FT was handling it. I have been told to wait for a month or two after July 30,” Mr. Islam told The Hindu.

The complete NRC draft, containing the names of most of 3.29 crore applicants, is scheduled to be published on Monday.

This will include the 1.9 crore names, minus 1.5 lakh whose documents were later not found to be in order, that figured in the first draft published on December 31, 2017.

NRC investigation in Assam: The unbearable being of a D-voter
 

NRC legacy data

“Imagine what went through the mind of an NRC investigation officer who applied for NRC with uncertainty because of the ‘D’ voter tag despite his father, Abul Hussain, having NRC legacy data for figuring in the 1966 electoral rolls,” Mr. Islam said.

The 1951 NRC and electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971 are together called legacy data, and a code is generated for anyone listed in those documents.

Mr. Islam was marked as a D-voter — done by a district electoral registration officer or Assam Police’s border wing tasked with detecting foreigners — in 1997, a few months after the Election Commission listed 3.7 lakh people as D-voters following intensive revision of rolls in Assam. Many of them were later found to be Indian citizens.

 

Pushed back

According to data placed in the 126-member Assam Assembly in February, the State now has 1,25,333 D-voters. Since 1997, the tribunals have declared 20,578 D-voters as foreigners with 29,663 others having been “pushed back” and 75 deported to Bangladesh.

Organisations such as the All Assam Minority Students’ Union and All Bodoland Territorial Council Bengali Students’ Federation said the frequency of serving D-voters’ notices increased after the NRC exercise was undertaken in September 2013.

In southern Assam’s Katigorah, for instance, notices were sent to 1,440 people under one police station.

In May, a FT served a notice to Kishore Nath, a BJP legislator from southern Assam’s Barkhola constituency, on suspicion he was a doubtful voter. His wife Nilima and four brothers were served notices too.

“This is ridiculous, as we have been living in Assam for three generations,” he said, threatening to take the officials involved to court.

In July 2015, BJP legislator from Silchar, Dilip Paul’s brother and his wife were asked to prove their citizenship. Mr. Paul’s parents had settled in Silchar in 1950.


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 10:12:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/nrc-investigation-in-assam-the-unbearable-being-of-a-d-voter/article24547575.ece

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