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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Assam: Passport renewal of activist Pranab Doley stuck over ‘doubtful nationality’

Pranab Doley belongs to the Mising tribe and had contested the recent state Assembly elections on a regional party ticket.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: December 23, 2021 12:15:31 pm
Pranab Doley, assam activist passport renewal stuck, assam NRC, national register of citizens, himanta bidwa sarma, indian express, assam newsPranab Doley said the letter doubting his nationality was “outrageous”, and alleged there was a “political vendetta” against him. (Facebook | Pranab Doley)

Pranab Doley, an activist who works in the villages around Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, was Monday informed that his “nationality was doubtful” by the regional passport office in Guwahati.

Doley, whose passport had expired in 2020, had applied for renewal in April 2021. On December 20, he received a letter that said: “Your nationality is doubtful as per police Verification Report. Please clarify at the Passport Office in person.”

Doley, who lives in Bokakhat, belongs to the Mising tribe, considered ‘indigenous’ to the state.

The 36-year-old has been a vocal critic of the ruling BJP government in Assam, and had unsuccessfully fought the 2021 Assam Assembly elections from the Bokakhat constituency on a regional party (Anchalik Gana Morcha) ticket. His candidature was supported by the Congress-led Mahajot alliance.

Speaking to The Indian Express Wednesday, Doley said the letter doubting his nationality was “outrageous”, and alleged there was a “political vendetta” against him.

“My candidature was cleared by the Election Commission of India…right after that, I am suddenly declared ‘doubtful’. This is definitely a vendetta because I have raised my voice time and again to save the Constitution in the current political climate,” he said, adding that the incident showed that “no community — indigenous or otherwise — was safe.”

When contacted, Sumeet Sharma, SP, Golaghat, under which Bokakhat falls, said the verfication report the district police sent to the passport office said Doley was an” Indian citizen”.

“Our report, which was sent to the district administration as well as the passport office in the first week of December, says that he is an Indian citizen. It also mentions that he was chargesheeted in three cases in 2017, 2018 and 2020, and all details related to it,”said Sharma, adding that he did not know why the letter to Doley had said that his nationality was doubtful.

The Indian Express reached out to the Regional Passport Office, Guwahati, but has not received a response yet.

Doley, associated with the Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha, a grassroots organisation that works with farmers, said that since 2016, when the BJP government came to power in Assam, he had been put into police custody at least three times.

“One was because I protested the extrajudicial shooting of a minor, Akash Orang, by the forest department in 2017. He was later disabled for life. Another was for demanding compensation to farmers for crop destroyed by floods in 2018, and the third was after highlighting a public distribution rice scam during the Covid-19 lockdown,” he said, adding that the police should “rectify the mistake immediately”, failing which he would seek recourse in the higher judicial process.

In July, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had urged Assam police to clear verification of passport applications within seven days, except in case of those suspected to be of “doubtful nationality”. “The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is not final. Just because your name is on the NRC does not mean you are Indian,” Sarma had said, at a conference attended by police officers in Guwahati. “If you feel someone’s background is doubtful, leave them out. But for khilonjiya (indigenous) people, do not take time to do the verification.”

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