Durga Khatiwada, a Sahitya Akademi award-winning Nepali writer from Assam, is among the over one lakh people in the additional exclusion list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The final draft of NRC was published in July last year and included 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore applicants. In an additional exclusion list published last week, NRC authorities dropped 1,02,462 more persons. These people were found ineligible for exclusion during verification. They will get a chance to appeal against their exclusion.
Khatiwada (60), president of the Assam Nepali Sahitya Sabha, won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2001 for a work of translation. He told The Indian Express that he was marked as a Doubtful Voter in the late 1990s and in 2015, he had been declared as an Indian by a Foreigners Tribunal in Guwahati. His name was included in the final draft of NRC published last year.
D-Voter is a category introduced in electoral rolls of Assam in 1997 to supposedly mark people unable to prove their citizenship during verification. The Foreigners Tribunals (FT)s — 100 across the state — are quasi-judicial bodies meant to “furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigner’s Act, 1946”.
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Khatiwada said, “My name was included in the final draft of NRC but last week I found that I was mentioned in the exclusion list. My wife’s name is in the NRC draft, but the names of my younger daughter and son are not there. It has been said they were excluded because they were children of a Doubtful Voter. But I had won the case against my D-Voter tag. It seems that was never updated.”
“Our family is from Sonitpur district. My parents did not even know the ‘N’ of Nepal, and here they have tagged me as a doubtful voter,” he added.
Assam is in the process of establishing a centralised database in which, among other features, the status of a person’s case in a Foreigners’ Tribunal will be reflected in real time and do away with non-updated data and mismatch in database.
On Sunday, a Gorkha body Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangha (BGP) held a press conference in Guwahati and claimed that many community members were dropped from the draft NRC in last week’s list. This includes, apart from Khatiwada, the kin of Bajyanti Devi, a Gorkha woman who died during the Assam Movement (1979-1985) and Manju Devi, the great-granddaughter of freedom fighter Chhabilal Upadhyay.
Gorkha bodies say that among the 40 lakh people excluded in the final draft, there are over one lakh Gorkhas. Once a person is excluded from the final NRC scheduled to be published on July 31, he/she has to approach a FT to appeal against the exclusion. But then, last year, the Home Ministry issued a communication citing a 1950 treaty between India and Nepal, and stating that Gorkhas living in India cannot be referred to Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) in Assam.
Easing the situation for the Gorkha community, the MHA had said that members of Gorkha community, who were Indian citizens at the time of commencement of the Constitution, or those who are Indian citizens by birth, or those who acquired Indian citizenship by registration or naturalization in accordance with the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955, were not “foreigners” and therefore, such cases could not be referred to Foreigners Tribunals.