Of no fixed abode: Ex-govt employee in a fix as Assam NRC leaves him out, includes wife and daughter
Bikash Kanti Nath's wife and daughter both made it to the Assam NRC final draft, as did 11 members of Bikash's extended family — making him the odd one out.
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: Bikash Kanti Nath, a lifelong resident of Silchar in Assam, got the "shock of his life" when he found himself excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC). After serving the government for over three decades, the 62-year-old retired government servant had never thought that the final draft, released on 30 July, would leave him feeling insecure in his home state.
"I am still not able to come to terms with the fact that my name was not there. I was born and brought up here, completed my education here and was an employee under the government of Assam for more than three decades," he said.
Bikash’s father Birendra Kumar Nath, who died in 1956, had been an employee at the Assam Secretariat in Shillong since 1948, when the city served as the state's capital. His younger brother Nripendra Kumar Nath, 91, who lives in the same locality, says that Birendra had also worked as a teacher in the 1930s and as an air raid instructor with the Assam Civil Defence Department during the days of World War II.
"We faced a tough time after his (Birendra's) demise and decided to move to Silchar, which was part of undivided Assam back then. Now, when the NRC is being updated after so many decades, the officials concerned have excluded my nephew's name, claiming that his documentation is insufficient. I would like to know how a document issued by the Air Civil Defence Department of Assam in 1944 is insufficient to prove that a family has been living in Assam since much before the cut off period of 1971," Nripendra says, adding that the family will pursue the legal fight to ensure that Bikash is recognised as an Assamese.
The papers Bikash submitted to the NRC authorities include a 1944 document related to his father, which was issued by Assam's director of civil defence and the voter lists of 1966 and 1993. While the document on his father included details of only his parents, the voter lists mentioned Bikash's name, as well.
Bikash completed his schooling from Adharchand Higher Secondary School in 1972 — one of the oldest educational institutes in Silchar. He graduated from Silchar's Gurucharan College in 1977 with a degree in Zoology and got his master's degree from Kalyani University in West Bengal in 1979.
In 2016, Bikash retired from service as the district fishery development officer and settled in Karimganj's Vivekananda Road area in Silchar. While his wife Suparna Nath works as a teacher at South Point School in the city, their daughter Barnali Nath is a PhD student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati.
On 17 December, a couple of weeks before the first NRC draft was released, NRC Sewa Kendra officials had visited their house for verification, Bikash said. "The officials checked the documents and said everything was okay."
"When I contacted the Sewa Kendra after my name did not appear in the first NRC draft, they told me that the process was underway and my name would definitely appear in the second and final draft," he said, also talking about the harassment entailed in making frequent visits to the Sewa Kendra after being left out of the first list.
His wife and daughter both made it to the NRC final draft, as did 11 members of Bikash's extended family — making him the odd one out.
"I have valid documents to prove my citizenship. It is disturbing to imagine the consequences in case my name is missing from the final NRC, as well. My family members are very worried about this," Bikash said. "Although the days ahead will be full of worries, I am hopeful that my name will appear in the final list."
With inputs from Biswa Kalyan Purkayastha
The authors are Assam-based freelance writers and members of 101Reporters.com