Forty years after he took part in the anti-foreigner Assam Agitation (1979-85), Pradeep Bordoloi now figures among the 42 lakh names that have failed to make it to the National Register of Citizen (NRC), the final list of which will be published on July 31. While more than 40 lakh names were not included in the final draft published last year, an additional of 1,02,462 names were dropped from another list published this June.
Bordoloi’s family, however, was excluded from the list ever since the first draft was published on the midnight of December 31 last year.
“I dedicated my life to the Assam Andolan. I was even put in the district jail for one week. We fought for a fair NRC — but is it not sad that today, I am the one suffering the most for it?” asks 62-year-old Bordoloi from his home in Charaibahi in Morigaon district.
The six-year-long Assam Agitation, spearheaded by the All Assam Students Union, culminated in the Assam Accord of 1985, which set the cut-off date for “legal” Indian citizens of Assam as March 24, 1971. It is on this date that a person’s inclusion in the NRC list is based on.
Bordoloi and his wife, Pinkumoni (46), along with their two children (aged 22 and 24), were shocked when they did not find their names on first draft last year. “When I went to the NRC Seva Kendra, they told us our documents were in order and there was nothing to worry about. That assurance was enough to calm me,” says Bordoloi.
Even the final draft of the NRC, which was published on July 30, 2018, Bordoloi’s family did not find their names. Ever since, they have been running from pillar to post, trying to figure out what the issue is. “Every time the officials tell us that it will be solved since we have the proper documents,” says Bordoloi. The retired government employee added that it was “all too technical” for him to understand.
“I had applied for the NRC online — I couldn’t do it myself, so had to get it done in the local cyber cafe. Maybe there was some mix-up there,” he says.
His wife Pinkumoni is scared that she will be sent to a detention camp. “She tells me ‘if a military officer can be sent to detention, anyone can’,” says Bordoloi. “Everyone —including me — wants a free and fair NRC, but this is utter negligence, the way things are going.”
After the July 2018 final draft was published, those excluded were given a chance to appeal in the ‘claims and objections’ round. After submitting the forms, Bordoloi’s son and daughter, who are based in Delhi and Bengaluru respectively, had to fly down to Guwahati twice — first, for their hearings and second, to submit their biometrics. “I spent close to Rs 40,000 on the tickets,” says Bordoloi, who earlier worked in the Nagaon Paper Mill. The mill has been defunct since March 2017.
Bordoloi’s father, Kameshwar Bordoloi, was a freedom fighter felicitated by the Assam government. “Social service and patriotism run in our blood. In fact, my father was the only freedom fighter from Charaibahi,” says Bordoloi, adding that he hopes he will find his family’s name on the July 31 list.
“But what if our names are left out in the final NRC too? Will I, someone who took part in the language movement as well as the agitation to drive ‘foreigners’ away, plead in front of a foreigners’ tribunal judge trying to prove my Indianness?” he asks.