THREE YEARS ago, Moinul Hoque was deployed by the government as a Field Level Officer to help compile and verify names for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Today, the 47-year-old government school teacher from Udalguri district finds himself among the 40 lakh people whose names are missing from the “complete draft”.
On Wednesday, a day after the draft was released, The Indian Express reported on the fear and uncertainty gripping the state in the wake of this exercise to weed out illegal migrants from Bangladesh — families split, siblings out, children’s names missing.
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Hoque was among the over 55,000 government officials and contract workers drafted by the state to complete the NRC updation process. And yet, he says, he is among the uncounted. “I will ask senior officials what the problem is, and I am sure we can find a way out. We are genuine Indians,” he says.
Hoque is not the only one on the government’s rolls who are missing from the NRC draft. There’s an Armyman, a CISF head constable, a gazetted officer at the Accountant General (Audit) office — and even an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Assam Police’s Special Branch who says he has been part of the security detail of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his predecessor Tarun Gogoi.
Moinul Hoque says his 11-member family, including his four brothers, four sisters and their parents, have been excluded from the draft. “Over the last three years, I have spent very less time at the school since I was primarily involved in NRC work,” he says, adding that one of his younger brothers, Musabirul Hoque (29), is also a teacher at another government school.
“We had submitted the 1965 matriculation certificate of our (late) father who was born in Daranng district in 1949, but that was not accepted by NRC authorities. My mother was not included because there was a problem in establishing her own legacy through land records of her father,” he says.
“Problems have occurred in the NRC process but we are not worried. Our family members will be included in the next round. We are Indians and we believe in Indian nationalism,” says Musabirul, Hoque’s brother.
Starting August 7, Hoque will find himself in a peculiar situation. “When the ‘claims and objections’ round begins, I will have to deal with my own case as well as be a part of the overall process,” he says.
Sepoy Inamul Hoque, 29, hails from Majgaon village of Barpeta district and is posted near Roorkee in Uttarakhand with the Army Service Corps. He says his name is not in the draft but those of his family — parents and four siblings — have been included. “My elder brother called me on July 30 to say that I am not in the list. I am a soldier, how can I not be in the list of Indian citizens? I had used the same legacy data as my siblings and yet they are there and I am not. My brother has said that I should not worry, and that he will do the needful after August 7,” he says.
Sadullah Ahmed, 48, is an ex-IAF technician who is currently an Assistant Audit Officer (gazetted) with the Accountant General (Audit) office in Guwahati. He says his name is not in the draft because he had used the same legacy data as one of his elder sisters, Fateman Nessa, who is a “declared foreigner”.
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“The name of my father Mobed Ali is in the 1951 NRC, land records of 1958 and 1967, and the voter’s list of 1971. And yet my sister was declared a foreigner by a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Barpeta in 2012. The decision was upheld by the high court, and an appeal is pending before the Supreme Court,” he says.
According to officials, siblings and other family members of “declared foreigners”, whose “reference” has been made to FTs by Assam Border Police, would be kept “pending” till a decision is taken on their citizenship.
Ahmed belongs to Majgaon in Barpeta district. For 20 years — from February 9, 1989, to February 28, 2009 — he was with the IAF as an aero-engine technician. After opting for retirement, he cleared the Staff Selection Commission to join the Accountant General’s office in 2010. “My wife’s name is there in the draft but like me, our two sons have been excluded. I am hopeful that we will be included in the final NRC,” he says.
Osman Gani, 51, is a CISF head constable posted in Guwahati, around 50 km from his home in Chaygaon. He and his wife are not in the final draft but two of their sons — aged 19 and 14 — find themselves listed. One of five brothers, Gani says he and two of his siblings have not been listed in the draft. “Our father’s name is in the 1951 NRC and 1971 Voters’ List. We are genuine Indian citizens. I am mostly away on duty and I am not well-versed with procedures but I don’t understand this exclusion at all,” says Gani, who is in the CISF since 1987.
Shah Alam Bhuyan, 50, an ASI with Assam Police’s Special Branch in Guwahati, did not find his name in the draft. The reason, he says, highlights the complexities of the process.
Bhuyan was marked as a “Doubtful” or “D voter” in 1997 but he came to know about that only around 2010 because he had never gone to cast his vote as he was “always on election duty”. The “D” category was introduced in the electoral rolls of Assam in 1997 to mark those whose citizenship was deemed doubtful. In 2017, Bhuyan got himself declared as an Indian citizen by the FT in Barpeta. But he found himself marked again as “D” in this year’s voters’ list.
According to authorities, of the 40 lakh excluded from the NRC draft, 2.48 lakh are on “Hold” because they belong to four categories: D voters, descendants of D voters, those with cases pending at FTs and their descendants.
“My parents’ names are in the 1951 NRC and I am a policeman who has worked on the security detail of two chief ministers — Tarun Gogoi and Sarbananda Sonowal. When I have already been declared as an Indian citizen, how can I be marked D again?” asks a flustered Bhuyan. His wife and their four children made it to the draft.
According to officials, the government will soon set up a centralised database with realtime information on the status of suspected “foreigners” and their cases at various tribunals.