Today's Paper

Assam minorities bombarded with re-verification notices

Officials verifying papersat a centre in Morigaondistrict.Ritu Raj Konwar  

Anwar Hussain was surprised to receive a notice from the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration (LRCR) of the Goroimari Revenue Block on Saturday.

The notice gave him less than 48 hours to appear, with all members of his family, for re-verification of their citizenship documents at the Golaghat North Development Block office in Golaghat district’s Dergaon, about 330 km west of his village Kanahara in Kamrup district. They were asked to report at 9 a.m. on Monday.

“I somehow managed to hire a 22-seater bus for my family and a few others. The vehicle alone will cost me Rs. 18,000,” said the 33-year-old Mr. Hussain, vice-principal of the Al-Amin Islamic Model School, before leaving for Dergaon in eastern Assam late on Sunday.

He was not the only one in Kanahara; 148 others had received a similar notice. By Saturday afternoon, about 50% of the people in most Muslim-dominated villages, such as Goroimari, Sontoli, Kalatoli, Topamari and Maligari, in Kamrup district had received the notice — almost simultaneously.

Not left out

“All those asked to get their documents re-verified are included in the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30, 2018. They are not among the 40.07 lakh and 1.02 lakh put on the two lists of people excluded from the NRC,” Kanahara village leader Muksed Ali Choudhury told The Hindu .

“The notices have been a bolt from the blue. Most people like Jamir Ali, Jahanara Khatun, Aamir Ali are daily-wagers and unable to get vehicles to centres 300-500 km away at such short notice. They fear they will be excluded from the NRC if they cannot turn up at the specified place in time,” he said.

There were reports of similar notices served in minority areas of districts such as Barpeta, Goalpara, Dhubri, Morigaon and Karimganj.

The Brahmaputra Valley Civil Society (BVCS), a group of academicians, retired bureaucrats, lawyers and professionals, said the notices cited The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.

“But the rules, as amended in 2009, and the Standard Operating Procedure that the Centre came up with for the NRC exercise say that a person has to be given at least 15 days to appear for a hearing. In a sudden bombardment of notices on August 3, people have been asked to go to faraway places for hearings on August 5, 6 and 7,” senior advocate H.R.A. Choudhury said.

“The LRCRs and NRC authorities have also snubbed the Supreme Court, which on April 10 ordered a person should be called for hearing to a centre within a convenient distance in the same district. The notices have also violated the SC ruling on July 23 against the government’s plea for re-verification after NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela said 27% re-verification has already been done,” he added.

“The notices have been a bolt from the blue. Most people like Jamir Ali, Jahanara Khatun, Aamir Ali are daily-wagers and unable to get vehicles to centres 300-500 km away at such short notice. They fear they will be excluded from the NRC if they cannot turn up at the specified place in time,” Mr. Choudhury said.

There were reports of similar notices served in minority areas of districts such as Barpeta, Goalpara, Dhubri, Morigaon and Karimganj.

‘SC snubbed’

The Brahmaputra Valley Civil Society (BVCS), a group of academicians, retired bureaucrats, lawyers and professionals, said the notices cited The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.

“But the rules, as amended in 2009, and the Standard Operating Procedure that the Centre came up with for the NRC exercise say that a person has to be given at least 15 days to appear for a hearing. In a sudden bombardment of notices on August 3, people have been asked to go to faraway places for hearings on August 5, 6 and 7,” senior advocate H.R.A. Choudhury said.

“The LRCRs and NRC authorities have also snubbed the Supreme Court, which on April 10 ordered that a person should be called for hearing to a centre within a convenient distance in the same district. The notices have also violated the SC ruling on July 23 against the government’s plea for re-verification after NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela said 27% re-verification has already been done,” Mr. Choudhury said.

Under fire

BVCS president Atowar Rahman said the notices have been served in mostly Muslim areas two days after the State government disclosed district-wise data on NRC inclusions and exclusions in the State Assembly. “We wonder if Mr. Hajela is under pressure from the government to have these notices served, or his office has done it voluntarily,” he said.