A total of 1.29 crore applicants did not find their names in the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) released at midnight Sunday in Assam. As people flocked to seva kendras across Assam with papers on Monday morning to check their names, at many centres here in Nellie, most of them missing from the draft NRC were Muslims.
None of the seven members of the family of Abdul Khaleque, (60), of village Basundhari near Nellie, or the 12 members of Md Amir Hussain of village Alisinga figured in the draft. In contrast, relief ran through tribals in villages in and around Nellie with names of most appearing on the list.
“Names of all 10 of my family members are there in the draft NRC. I checked them on the computer as well as in the printed copy,” smiled Kolong Konwar of Silchang, a village inhabited by Tiwa tribals.
Probin Sarma, the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration (LRCR) for NRC Sewa Kendra No. 1647, where Konwar is now registered, said only 53 per cent of those who applied at the centre had found place in the draft NRC, and that most of them were tribals. “Of the 9,002 names in the 2,776 applications we received, as many as 4,771 found place in the first draft, 80 per cent of them tribals. We now have 4,231 names pending, most of which require detailed verification of family linkages and certificates issued by gaon panchayat secretaries,” Sarma said.
Releasing the first draft Sunday night, Registrar General of India Sailesh called the exercise “unprecedented”, and said, “There is no need for anyone to panic. Other names are in various stages of verification and, as soon as the verification is done, we will come out with another draft.”
He added that the remaining names were being verified in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.
While 3.29 crore people had submitted application for inclusion in the NRC, cases of 76 lakh were not taken up for the first draft. Of these 76 lakh, in the case of about 47 lakh, there were doubts about family linkages, while the remaining 29 lakh had submitted gaon panchayat certificates that require minute scrutiny.
NRC sources said servers of the websites for checking names in the NRC draft were jammed on Monday as thousands attempted to see their names.
A worried Khaleque said he had submitted a copy of the NRC of 1951 with his father’s name in it. Hussain too said he had submitted a copy of the 1951 NRC, with his grandfather Abdus Sattar’s name in it.
Their villages Alisinga and Basundhari were among the six villages that had suffered the worst casualties in the Nellie massacre of 1983, and the memories of it have sharpened their fears at being left out of the NRC. On February 18, 1983, around 1,800 people (unofficial figure is more than 3,000), all Muslims of migrant origin, had been killed on a single day amid circumstances that remain unexplained to this day. Not a single person has been convicted for one of the worst massacres in independent India’s history.
Among the survivors, Md Abu Taher of No. 1 Borpayak village, is slightly luckier when it comes to the NRC. “My family has six members, but only my name and my eldest son Farooque’s name hasn’t appeared,” he said, pointing out they had all presented the same document for the purpose of verification.
Talking about how he lost two brothers among five family members in the Nellie massacre, Taher said, “We were looking forward to the NRC to clear all doubts about our citizenship. The draft has only disheartened us.”
Troilokya Saloi, the LRCR for the Nellie gaon panchayat Sewa Kendra, said 55 per cent of the names registered with it had made it to the draft NRC, and that “of the 1,420 families who applied, more than 50 per cent would be Muslims”. However, he assured, “A complete draft NRC is yet to be prepared.”
Abdul Karim of village Alisinga, who is also president of the BJP local booth committee, is also a Nellie massacre survivor and is among those whose entirely family (of 11 members) is missing from the draft NRC. Yet, he has been reassuring people “not to lose heart”. “Many people here had submitted certificates issued by the gaon panchayat secretaries, and these will be taken up only in the next phase,” said Karim, adding that he had not found his name despite submitting a copy of the 1951 NRC showing his father Abdul Hai’s name in it.
Tribal Konwar (38), who works as a mechanic, said he was aware of the Nellie massacre and added that this was why the NRC was very important. “I am hopeful a correct NRC will help identify each and every Bangladeshi infiltrator. They don’t have any business to be here, occupying our tribal land, reserved forests and wildlife sanctuaries,” he said.
Ganak Boro, 67, a tribal of Silchang Boro-chuburi village, whose entire family of seven members is in the draft NRC, said, “Names of tribal people should be included without any question.”
Blaming “dirty politics” for the Nellie massacre, he added, “The government is seriously engaged in preparing the NRC. Once names of all genuine Indian citizens are included, those whose names don’t appear should be dealt with according to the law. After all, we don’t want another Nellie massacre.”
Asked about a possible timeframe for the next draft NRC, the Registrar General of India Sunday said the NRC Authority would present its case before the Supreme Court at the next hearing in April, and the date would be decided accordingly. “We will be able to complete the entire process this year,” Sailesh said.
The NRC was last updated in Assam in 1951. Then it had recorded 80 lakh citizens in the state.