Rakibul Hassan Khan (35) and his mother Hasina Khatun (65) went to a National Register of Citizens (NRC) hearing centre in Senga area of Barpeta district on Monday in response to a notice regarding an ‘objection’ against her inclusion in the final draft of the NRC published last year.
At the centre, they found no sign of the complainant who had objected to Khatun’s inclusion.
Noor Mohammad (52) had the same experience at a hearing centre in Kalgachia of Barpeta, where he went in connection with an ‘objection’ against his younger sister Mumtaz.
More than 40 lakh people were excluded from the final draft of the NRC published on July 30 last year. They were allowed to appeal for their inclusion in the final NRC through the ‘Claims Round’. One could also raise an ‘objection’ to the inclusion of another person in the NRC draft.
Of the 40 lakh-odd people excluded from the final NRC draft, around 36 lakh have filed ‘claims’, while ‘objections’ have been received against a little over 2 lakh people among the 2.89 crore included in the final draft. Official figures were not available, but sources earlier indicated Barpeta district accounted for 75,000 objections while Nagaon and Morigaon saw 35,000-odd each.
The ‘objection’ process had raised eyebrows when the official ‘objections’ increased from 700-odd to more than 2 lakh on the deadline of filing the same, December 31, 2018.
Monday was the first day of objection-related hearings. Like Khan and Mohammad, scores of people turned up at centres for the hearings but, they said, the ‘objectors’ did not show up.
Ashraful Hussain, a Barpeta-based social worker, said, “I visited four hearing centres where hundreds had hearings in connection with ‘objections’. Not a single complainant turned up. It leads one to believe that the objections were filed in a fraudulent manner.”
The Assam unit of Jamiat Ulama and the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) — both stakeholders in the NRC update case in the Supreme Court — said the development would hamper the making of a “free and fair NRC”.
AAMSU adviser Azizur Rahman said, “Objections are important in the NRC updation process. But most objections have been filed to harass religious and linguistic minority communities. We will raise this at the next hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.”
Brahmaputra Valley Civil Society, a Guwahati-based rights group, sent a memorandum to Hajela and held a sit-in demonstration in the city on Tuesday. The group’s working president A B Khandekar said, “In case of absence of objectors during the hearing, the objections should be considered infructuous.”
Several individuals have also claimed their names were misused to file objections, or that they were forced to sign objection forms.
Jatin Chandra Nath of Dhing of Nagaon district has written to local NRC officials saying that several objections had been filed by fraudulently using his name. “I never filed any objection. Some people might have forged my signature,” said Nath, a businessman and local AGP leader.
According to Maulana Fazlul Karim Qasimi, secretary of the state Jamiat unit, at least 14 such incidents have been reported from Kokrajhar district — which is a part of Bodoland Territorial Area Districts — where 14 persons wrote to the authorities that they were forced by local youths to write objections. Qasimi said, “We held a meeting with leaders of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and they agreed to withdraw objections filed by some of their members against genuine Indian citizens.”
When objections spiked on December 31, both NRC and local sources had told The Indian Express that youths affiliated with All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) — also a stakeholder in the case — played a pivotal role.
Adviser to AASU Samujjal Bhattacharya said, “We helped genuine citizens file their claims and those who wanted to file objections. Our position has been clear — we want an NRC with all genuine Indian citizens included and without any illegal Bangladeshi.”