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'.
Cachar: In Kargil, 1999, Grenadier Chimmoy Bhowmik laid down his life on the battlefield. Every child in the Barak Valley of Assam knows his name. His brothers, Santosh and Sajal, have also served the Indian defence forces. When the National Register of Citizen (NRC) draft was released, it was therefore a surprise that the name of Pinak Bhowmik, 13-year-old son of Sajal, was left out. Both Santosh and Sajal’s names along with rest of the family members are included in the NRC.
Bhowmik family isn't as worried about the exclusion as they are upset about the remarks made by some of the leaders of the ruling party, terming the excluded individuals as ‘ghuspaithiya’ or illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Chinmoy Bhowmik’s death in the Kargil war created a buzz across the valley. He was one of the two army personnel from this region who died during the war in 1999. His nephew Pinak, is the lone descendant of the Bhowmik family, which continues to reside in Jarail Tala locality under Borkhala constituency in Cachar district.
His parents, Sajal and Piyali Bhowmik, have been staying in Hyderabad for the last couple of months due to medical reasons, while he stays with other family members.
"His name is missing from the first draft of the NRC despite having provided all important documents during verification. There may have been some mistake on my part, but the NRC officials should have provided more assistance for filing the form," says Santosh, 71.
He insisted that their family is not against the NRC, but are unhappy with the process and how it was executed in Assam. "This was designed by the honourable Supreme Court. As a former Army officer, I have the highest respect for this country’s apex court. Though it started with good intentions, it has been executed in an improper manner. They asked for my son’s PAN Card, as I don’t think there is a provision for showing tax submission card of a 13-year-old boy. We still tried to follow the NRC’s instructions, but they finally excluded his name,” says Santosh.
“But we are not very worried about it, this is my nation, we served for the nation, my brother gave his life in the war, the nation won’t deny us. But some prominent netas are claiming that these people are illegal migrants or descendants of illegal migrants. I am shocked and upset at the same time,” he adds.
Santosh Bhowmik's job as a doctor in the Indian Army took him to almost every part of the nation. “The one thing we have earned through our years of service is self-respect. We never did anything that would pollute our pride and never let others do the same with us. We have earned respect in the society. But excluding my nephew’s name and calling the left-outs as infiltrators or illegal citizens makes us angry.”
The other family members, too, condemned the NRC’s system in Assam. "The Honourable Supreme Court gave responsibility of executing the NRC to the Assam Government. Prateek Hajela was appointed as the coordinator of the process, but he failed miserably in his duties, resulting in harassment for common people," says Deepali, the eldest among the Bhowmik siblings who is 80-year-old.
The family’s primary argument questions the NRC’s faulty results after spending massive time and effort. “You are making a draft which took more than three years and spent crores of public money. In two attempts, you come up with this draft that has excluded 40 lakh names out of less than three crore people? And you start claiming that we have excluded all Bangladeshis. What sort of joke is this? Like my nephew, a large number of children and descendants of genuine Indian citizens have been excluded and the leaders are not even aware of it,” outrages Gayatri, Santosh Bhowmik’s wife.
Deepali adds, “We have seen some leaders in Parliament saying NLC or RNC, instead of NRC. They are not able to remember the short form of National Register of Citizens, but claim that they have done a historic job. We strongly condemn these sort of irresponsible statements. They are just weakening the democracy."
Most people across the valley’s three districts are aware of Chinmoy Bhowmik. A large number of youth from this part of Assam serve in the armed forces. Working for the forces is considered a matter of pride in this part of the country and many claim that the martyrdom of Chinmoy Bhowmik is one of the reasons behind this. “Excluding names of family members of a martyr is an insult to the nation and its armed forces,” says former MLA of the Borkhola constituency, Misbahul Islam Laskar. He says that some of the BJP’s leaders are less educated and often come up with bogus claims and bizarre speeches.
“Here in Cachar, we all know of Chinmoy Bhowmik and his sacrifice. I know them (the Bhowmik family) personally and we are proud of the fact that they reside in our area. We have an MLA from BJP party in our area who is not even aware of the family and he allowed the NRC officials to exclude name of Kargil martyr’s family member,” Laskar says.
The current MLA from Borkhola, Kishore Nath, anticipates that Pinak's name will appear in the final list. “This is a draft and not the final list of the NRC. The final list is likely to come out in the next few months. Not all the people left out are illegal migrants. There were issues regarding verification which led to the exclusion of many names. Martyr Chinmoy Bhowmik’s nephew can be a victim of some unintentional irregularity. Our NRC team has tried its best to make a proper list, and they have done it almost a perfect manner. Some groups here are trying to create panic among innocent citizens, which we don’t support," says Nath.
Nath also blames the media for twisting the words of BJP's top brass. "(Remarks of) great leaders like Amit Shah and Subramanian Swamy were twisted by some sections of media. Our leaders never said that people left out the NRC are illegal migrants, because this is still under Supreme Court's jurisdiction,” the MLA claims.
Biswa Kalyan Purkayastha is a Silchar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.
Updated Date: Aug 20, 2018 20:59 PM