Associate Partner

Of no fixed abode: Named in first NRC, missing in final draft, former MLA claims he was left out 'intentionally'

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'.

***

Silchar, Assam: Two-time MLA Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya was in for a rude shock on 30 July. His name, which was present in the first National Register of Citizens draft, failed to make it to the final draft.

"A mammoth-sized conspiracy is going on against Bengalis in the name of NRC," said the former MLA, who was left in a state of "liminal legality" along with over 40,000 others.

The allegations of injustice have been around for some time now. While attending a public meeting in Silchar earlier this year, Mazarbhuiya said: "A section of the political class in the Brahmaputra Valley is conspiring to deprive the Bengalis of citizenship in the Barak Valley and other parts of the state. They are using NRC update as a weapon."

Mazarbhuiya also threatened to take legal action against state co-ordinator Prateek Hajela for allegedly conspiring against him. "Hajela intentionally excluded my name from the list. We are not going to tolerate this sort of attitude," he said adding that Hajela is biased and was allegedly working under instructions of some influential groups.

Born to a farmer from an interior part of Cachar district, Mazarbhuiya involved himself in politics during his student life. He served as the general secretary of state committee of All India Student Federation in college.

 Of no fixed abode: Named in first NRC, missing in final draft, former MLA claims he was left out intentionally

File image of two-time ex-MLA Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya. Biswa Kalyan Purkayastha/101Reporters.com

He rose to prominence after serving as the first general secretary of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) — a political party he formed along with Badruddin Ajmal, Hafiz Rashid and others.

The AIUDF's emergence in Assam can be attributed to the failure of the Congress in drawing attention of the religious minorities to some extent. Ajmal's presence was a significant reason behind the defeat of veteran Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev in the 2009 Lok Sabha Election. Minority leaders in Assam, mostly those with a sense of being left out in the Congress, prefer to join AIUDF.

Mazarbhuiya, however, left AIUDF to join the Congress when he was denied a ticket before the 2016 Assembly election.

Mazarbhuiya was working as a government school teacher till 2006, after which he quit his job to actively participate in politics. He was elected as the Member of Legislative Assembly from Katigorah constituency in the same year. He chose his first tenure to focus on the various issues plaguing the Barak Valley and emerged as one of the most vociferous leaders.

While Mazarbhuiya retained his seat during the 2011 Assembly polls, a fallout with some AIUDF leaders cost him dearly in 2016, when he was denied ticket by the party. This escalated the situation further and he quit AIUDF saying that Ajmal had polluted the ideology of the party. He has since then joined Congress.

Continuing to be unabashedly vocal, Mazarbhuiya has also alleged that the Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government is more influenced by the RSS than the Constitution of India.

"BJP's prime objective of bringing NRC was to divide people on the basis of religion. Both the communities have been living here peacefully for hundreds of years," Mazarbhuiya said.

"The saffron brigade is using NRC as an extended version of their divide and rule policy. The party works under the direct influence of RSS and they don't follow the Constitution of India properly.

"The draft NRC contains names of the elusive commander-in-chief of the anti-talk faction of ULFA, Paresh Baruah, but they excluded my name,” the former MLA pointed out.

Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, a Congress legislator, condemned the exclusion of Mazarbhuiya’s name from the final draft. The Karimganj North MLA said that initially the left-out list had more Hindu names.

"There were less names from Muslim families under the original rules of NRC updation procedure. But RSS pressurised Hajela to come up with new rules which would help excluding more Muslims. As a result, a large number of people from the Muslim community failed to get their names registered on the list. Most of them are women and children," he said.

Veteran BJP leader and former union minister Kabindra Purkayastha, however, denied the allegation.

"NRC is an application-based procedure where one has to apply first and follow the rules to include their names in the register. Each and every applicant is an independent individual and there is no Hindu-Muslim issue in it," he clarified.

Cachar deputy commissioner Dr Lakshmanan S assured to deal with the matter carefully adding that Mazarbhuiya has adequate documents to get his name included in the list.

Many local organisations along with BJP and Congress are now forming free legal cells for NRC left-outs who are from the financially deprived class. More than 2,000 Nagrik Seva Kendra (NSKs) are functioning across Assam which will look into the applications from the 40,000 people whose names failed to appear on the list. The cases are likely to be resolved by 28 September.

The first draft of NRC — released on 31 December, 2017 — included names of 1.90 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants. The final draft, which was released last week, had 2.90 crore names, but over 40 lakh names were excluded.

(The author is a Silchar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)

Updated Date: Aug 04, 2018 16:45:04 IST