Updated: August 8, 2019 6:54:04 am
From two sisters on board a bus to a senior citizen who fell ill during a hearing, four persons, including a 14-year-old girl, have died since Monday in Assam. All were among the thousands summoned for fresh National Register of Citizens (NRC) hearings that ended Wednesday. The Indian Express reported Monday that thousands in lower Assam districts received notices from NRC authorities asking them to appear at new hearings, mostly in far-off towns of Upper Assam, 300-400 km away, between August 5 and August 7. The fresh set of orders triggered panic as people boarded buses, hired SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles and pick-up trucks to reach towns like Jorhat, Charaideo, Sivasagar and Golaghat.
Rezia Khatun (60) from Dakachang village in Kamrup (rural) district was declared brought dead at a hospital in Nagaon district after she complained of being unwell during her hearing in Kaliabor on Monday. She had to travel more than 250 km for the hearing and police said the cause of death is unknown. Early Tuesday, Hanif Ali (65) died after the hired camper vehicle he and his family were travelling in capsized around 10 km away from his home in Asalpara village. They were returning from Charaideo district. Ali’s relative, Monirul Islam said, “The village headman handed over the notice at 8 am on Sunday and we managed to procure a vehicle. We started at Asalpara at 9 pm Sunday and reached the NRC centre at 10.40 am. We left for home at 1 pm and met with an accident at 3 am near our house. All this happened in a day’s journey and my uncle died.”
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And then, on Wednesday morning, sisters Joymon Nessa (32) and Arzina Begum (14) died after the mini-bus they were travelling in from Golaghat to Kamrup met with an accident. A relative of the sisters, Faizur Rehman, said, “Arzina was a Class 8 student in a private school in our village Dakachang. At least 20 people from their branch of the family was called for hearing. They attended it and met with this accident on their way back.”
Local police officers in Nagaon and Kamrup (rural) districts confirmed the four deaths to The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Sunday midnight, another bus from Sontoli in Kamrup travelling to Golaghat, met with an accident near Guwahati, as it collided with a truck carrying tar – and 22 people were injured, some suffering serious burn wounds due to the hot mix, and admitted to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). Twenty-four hours later, another bus ferrying families who had completed their hearing Monday in Golaghat back to Kamrup was involved in a mishap in Sonapur, which left at least seven injured.
Shakil Ahmed, a volunteer who has been at the GMCH since Monday, said, “They are very poor people. It seems that in a hurry, the vehicles that these people had booked were not apt for travelling, say, a total of 700-800km, up-down, on the National Highway. They have had to book whatever was available in an attempt to reach the NRC hearing on time. Had there been a bit more time – say, 15 days as the SOP approved by the Supreme Court lays out – rather than 36 hours, things could have been arranged in a better way.”
“I have appeared in a couple of NRC hearings earlier, but those were near our village. But this time, no one knows why the centres have been kept so far away. Had the distance not been long, there would have been no injuries and deaths. This is not right. How can they do this?,” said Ayarul Hoque Bhuyan (26), from his bed at the GMCH as he recovers from burn wounds.
Government officials remained tight-lipped on the deaths and Prateek Hajela, the NRC state coordinator who was earlier censured against talking to the press by the Supreme Court, did not respond to text messages and phone calls.
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