Mistaken for NRC surveyors, researchers held hostage by Bihar villagers; polio teams thrashed in UP, heckled in Telangana

  • A team of researchers from Lucknow-based organisation, mistaken as NRC surveyors, was caught by villagers in Bihar's Darbhanga and handed over to the police.

  • A similar incident was reported in Uttar Pradesh last week, when a team administering polio vaccinations was beaten and held hostage by villagers who feared them to be collecting information for NPR

  • Immunization and health department officials also encountered difficulties in the polio vaccination drive in various parts of Hyderabad as Muslim residents harboured fears over the CAA and NRC

A team of researchers from a Lucknow-based organisation was mistaken for NRC surveyors by villagers in Bihar's Darbhanga and held hostage before being handed over to the local police.

Superintendent of Police, Darbhanga, Babu Ram said the team, comprising 12 people, including four women, visited a village under Jamalpur Police Station area. The team was from a Lucknow-based research organisation engaged by a US-based PhD scholar.

However, as they began visiting households and collecting information,  word spread that "NRC surveyors" had arrived following which villagers grew furious and held them hostage before taking them to the police station.

 Mistaken for NRC surveyors, researchers held hostage by Bihar villagers; polio teams thrashed in UP, heckled in Telangana

Representational image. PTI

The situation was defused at the police station where officials verified their identities and explained the facts to the villagers, the SP said. The villagers then went back satisfied, he added.

He, however, added that similar incidents have recently occurred in the district  and an awareness campaign has been launched as part of which residents are being told to "inform the police or local administrative officials" if any surveyors in their area aroused suspicion "instead of illegally detaining them".

With the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the NRC and the National Population Register (NPR) spreading in different parts of Bihar, people engaged in conducting surveys for private research and marketing companies are being mistakenly targeted.

Similar incidents have also been reported from different parts of the country over the past week. On Saturday, The Times of India reported that a three-member team for administrating polio vaccines had been mistaken as NPR data collectors and thrashed by villagers in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district.

As per the report, two from the team managed to escape and complained to the police. One of the victims, Kabir Ahmad Khan said that the incident occurred near the Lakhipura locality of Lisai Gate area after a family opposed the administration of polio drops.

“As per rule, we have to enter the name of the non-consenting parents in the tally register,” the report quoted him as saying. “The moment we asked their names, there was a strong protest and within no time, we were surrounded by a mob. We tried to explain them the purpose of our visit. We even showed them the vaccine box and our IDs, but they didn’t listen to us.”

Khan said it was obvious that the people were anxious about the NPR-NRC as one of the youths in the mob told people not to provide any details to the officers, suspecting them to be NPR data collectors.

According to the report, Lisari Gate station officer Prashant Kapil said that the police were in the police were in the process of registering a FIR and that this was not the first time such an incident had occurred in the area.

According to a report in The New Indian Express, immunisation and health department officials encountered difficulties in the polio vaccination drive in various parts of Hyderabad as Muslim residents harboured fears over the CAA and NRC.

Accusing health officials of supporting the Centre’s CAA and NRC plans, residents around Abids, Golconda, Musheerabagh heckled them and threatened to file police complaints against them.  This affected the tallying process of how many children were actually immunised in the national pulse polio drive as residents refused to provide information, said the report.

People seemed petrified that the team was collecting information for NRC under the pretext of polio, the report quoted Dr Nagarjuna Rao, immunisation programme officer for Hyderabad, as saying. He further added that the situation got so tense that local leaders had to intervene and placate he residents.

The team has however chosen not to file police complaints against the residents, he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose JD(U) is an ally of the BJP, have been at pains to explain that the CAA would expedite grant of citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, having fled religious persecution in their countries, without affecting Indians and that there was no move so far to bring in the nationwide NRC.

Opposition parties have, however, accused the NDA of misleading the people on the issue and pointed out that a country-wide NRC was mentioned in the BJPs manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls.

The NRC had also found mention in President Ram Nath Kovinds address to a joint session of Parliament last year besides in Union Home Minister Amit Shah' s speech when the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was being debated in the Lok Sabha, the Opposition parties said.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2020 18:38:14 IST