On Friday, Sayed Ali, a 30-year-old farmer from Karaibeel village in the Chhaygaon area of Assam’s Kamrup district, received a notification on the exclusion of his three sons from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30. The three boys were all in the first draft published on December 31, 2017, which did not include Ali, his wife, his daughter and his father.
This time, it was the other way round — the three sons were out, but Ali, his wife and father were in. Ali’s six-year-old daughter did not find a place in both drafts.
Across Chhaygaon, several people queued up outside the NRC Seva Kendras for forms that will allow them to seek information in cases of exclusion from the complete draft of the NRC. The standard operating procedure on the claims and objections round of the NRC, which began Friday, is expected to be cleared after the next Supreme Court hearing in the case on August 16. Also Read: TMC to hold rallies across Bengal against Assam’s NRC draft
Ali’s sons were among the over 40 lakh people excluded from the final draft and the 1.5 lakh whose names were present in the first draft but missing in the next round. On July 2, the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the NRC updation process, approved the deletion of these names. These 1.5 lakh people were to be individually notified on the reasons behind their exclusion.
According to the official announcement, 2.48 lakh people among the 40 lakh excluded are on “Hold” because they belong to four categories: doubtful or D-voters, descendants of D-voters, people whose cases are pending at Foreign Tribunals and their descendants. Also Read: Will drive out Bangladeshi Muslims, not Bengalis, BJP says in hoardings
The notification that Ali received says that his sons — Ramzan Ali (10), Aminul Hoque (8) and Abdul Haque (4) — are the “children of persons whose cases are running in Foreigners Tribunals”, with their status on “Hold”. “I don’t know of any case against me in any FT (Foreign Tribunal). I am not a ‘D-voter’ nor have I ever been questioned by the Border Police. My father, my wife and I are in the final draft of the NRC. Had there been any pending case against me or my father, we would have been excluded from the final draft,” says Ali. Also Read: National Register of Citizens: Beginnings and endings
Since Wednesday, villagers in Hatisala, Karaibeel and neighbouring villages of Chhaygaon — those in the first draft but excluded from the final version — have been receiving these notifications from the NRC authorities. It was then that many got to know that they or their parents have cases pending in FTs — there are 100 tribunals across Assam. These notices do not mention any details, such as the case number or the tribunal where the case is registered.
Asatun Nessa, in her 80s and a resident of Bhalukabari village of Chhaygaon, was excluded from the first draft. Her notification states “case pending at Foreigners Tribunals” without any further details. “Neither have I got any notice nor have any policeman ever come to my house to question me. I am a genuine Indian. I have never even been to Guwahati. I am a poor village woman, I have never been to school. Will I be put in a detention camp now?” she asks.
Nessa’s name figures in the 1966 voters’ list; she has a voters’ card, too. Her grandson Robiul Hussain says none among the 12-member family made it to the first draft, but eight of them did in the next round. “We are still trying to understand what this letter means. My grandmother never got any notice from any FT before,” he says.
The notification received by Sabur Ali, a 44-year-old driver from Karaibeel, is similar. His parents, sister and wife are in the final draft but he has been left out citing “case pending at Foreigners Tribunals”.
The situation is same for Samsul Hoque, 52, and his three sons in Karaibeel — they are on “Hold”. The notification says that Hoque, a fisherman and a trader, has a case pending against him. “What case is this, please tell me? I was in the first draft. Now they are pointing to a pending case. I am not a D-voter, I have a voters’ card and so does my eldest son Swahidul Islam. My father is in the 1966 voters’ list,” he says.
Hemebul Hoque, 23, and Mohibul Hoque, 20, were excluded from the final draft although their father is in because their ID documents, including birth certificates and matriculation admit cards, did not meet the re-verification norms.
Akram Hussain, panchayat president of Hatisala-Bhalukabari panchayat comprising five villages, says the situation raises “several important questions regarding the NRC updation process”.
“There is fear and chaos among people after these notifications. They do not have any case against them and yet there is mention of ‘pending cases’. Will new cases be registered now? There is arbitrariness in the rejection of 1.5 lakh people. But now the remaining 38.5 lakh people will fill up the claims form and as per the procedure they will also be notified of the reason — let us see what comes out of that,” he says.
NSK officials in Chhaygaon say they do not have the details of the cases at this point. NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela did not respond to calls from The Indian Express seeking comment. On August 7, Hajela was censured by the Supreme Court for speaking to the media about the NRC process.
First prepared in 1951, the NRC is now being updated in the latest attempt to identify illegal immigrants.