Editor's Note: Of the 4 million who didn't make it to NRC, 2.48 lakh have been marked as 'D' voters. The Supreme Court has asked Assam government not to take any coercive action on those who are found to be without proper documents as required under recent National Register of Citizens. NRC, a product of Assam Accord, is expected to solve the fear of Bangladeshi immigrants that has been prevalent in the state for quite some time now. The Centre proposed in 1999 an updated NRC in Assam to solve the problem of "illegal immigration" and two pilot projects were conducted in Dhubri and Barpeta districts. But breaking out of a riot in Barpeta grounded the project. In 2005, when All Assam Student Union opposed the prime minister's visit to the state, tripartite talk between AASU, State government, and the Centre resulted in a decision to prepare a model for the NRC process, which was delayed yet again by over 5 years by the state government. It was only when Abhijeet Sharma of Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO, filed a writ petition in 2009 that the SC's direct intervention led to the start of NRC process in 2014. Firstpost will run a series which will feature 30 profiles in 30 days of those residents of Assam who have not been covered under the final draft of NRC which will decide if they continue to live in the state that they call 'home'.
Dibrugarh, Assam: On 30 July, Ganga Paswan — a 45-year-old domestic help in Assam’s Dibrugarh—broke out in a cold sweat after she found out that her name, along with those of the members of her family, was missing from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She lives in Shantipara with her 50-year-old husband Raju, and two daughters.
Raju Paswan, who works as a daily wage labourer in Dibrugarh, had submitted all the required documents at the NRC Sewa Kendra in 2015 itself, the family claims.
“Despite submitting all documents in 2015, our names were not there even in the first draft. We thought that the names will come in the final draft but they did not. We submitted all the documents along with our legacy but to no avail,” says Ganga.
Originally hailing from Samastipur district in Bihar, Ganga moved to Dibrugarh in 1988 after getting married to Raju, whose family had been living in the state for over six decades.
According to the family, Raju’s Hindi-speaking father came to Assam in 1952 looking for work. He, too, started working as a daily wage labourer in Dibrugarh. The family has settled near Shantipara in Dibrugarh since then. “Many Hindi-speaking people in my locality are struggling to find their name in the final draft of NRC,’’ says Ganga.
The exclusion of the family from the final draft of the NRC has hit them hard. The family claims it is facing harassment despite having voter ID cards, ration cards and all the other documents required to prove Indian citizenship. “We are facing harassment because we, who are genuine Indian citizens, failed to make it to the final list,” says Ganga adding that the legal processes affect her work as well. “During the 2015 NRC process, I could not go to work for two days and my employers scolded me for that. We are poor people running our family by working every day. It’s difficult for me to skip work.”
“We don’t know what to do next, because even after having the required documents, our names didn’t make the cut. We have to make fresh applications, which is tiring because it means repeating the entire process again. The NRC was designed to detect the illegal migrants. Why are genuine citizens like us being put through this?” she asks.
“My elder daughter Laxmi, 16, is in the 10th standard and will be appearing for her boards next year. The younger one, Saraswati, 5, has not even started school yet. Now, I am worried about my daughters,” says Ganga. “What will they do in the near future if their names are not there on the list? I wanted my daughters to study and have good jobs, but now I worry about our survival,’’ she adds.
Lakshmi, Ganga's elder daughter, says, “I heard from my parents that if we are not able to submit the required documents, then we have to leave Assam. My parents are working hard to finance my education and I feel very bad about them. They want me to become a teacher and I want to do my best to fulfill their dreams,’’ says Lakshmi as her mother looks at her absent-mindedly.
Raju Paswan says the family has sought help to resolve the problem. “We went to the NRC Seva Kendra, and the concerned official told us that we have to submit the documents again,’’ he says.
Additional Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh, Ankur Bharali says the procedure for claims and corrections is the same for all, and people should not panic, but follow due process. “If their name didn’t appear in the final draft of NRC, they should find out the exact reason at the concerned NRC Seva Kendra. Claims forms will be given out from 30 August onwards. If they apply correctly this time, they do not have to worry," he says.
Ganga informs that on another visit to the NRC Seva Kendra on Friday, she was told to re-submit her documents as they had made mistakes in their application form. "On 30 August, we have to go to the Seva Kendra to collect the form,’’ she says.
(Avik Chakraborty is a Dibrugarh-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2018 17:17 PM