A research scholar is worried about getting a visa to attend conferences abroad. An ex-serviceman’s daughter who was born in Gujarat is the only one in her family to be left out. And, a retired school teacher is hoping against hope that her claim would be validated by officials in another state.
The “draft” of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, which was released four days ago and aims to weed out illegal migrants from Bangladesh, has left in its wake fear and apprehension among the “most vulnerable” of those under the radar — women.
Lawyers say that among the 40 lakh people left out of the draft, are several married women who had submitted Gram Panchayat (GP) certificates as their sole document for NRC verification. In many cases, those were rejected.
Last year, the Gauhati High Court ruled that such documents, certified by the GP secretary, were inadmissible as sole proof of nationality. But the Supreme Court later said that these documents could be used for claiming inclusion but only after “proper enquiry and verification”. Subsequently, a special verification process was started for such cases.
”Most women don’t have birth certificates or didn’t attend school or dropped out before they could obtain a board certificate. Many got married before 18 and hence their names don’t appear with their parents in the voters’ lists… the husbands’ names are recorded,” says a Guwahati-based lawyer who is handling a number of cases at Foreigners’ Tribunals across the state.
”Now, many women have complained that authorities asked for additional documents to prove their linkage with parents, apart from the GP certificate,” says the lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
On July 31, The Indian Express reported on several cases in which the GP certificates were not accepted because the village chiefs who issued them had not maintained proper records.
Amina Begum, 47, and her husband Shahzahan Qazi, who is a high school teacher in Barpeta district, have not found a place in the draft. Their children — three boys — are out, too.
Amina and Shahzahan were marked as “D voters” in 1997 but say they received a notice from the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) only in 2016. “In March 2017, we were declared Indian citizens. But this change in status was not reflected in the latest electoral rolls, and we have been kept out of the NRC draft,” says Amina, adding that her father’s name was on the voters’ lists of 1966 and 1970.
D or “doubtful” voters was a category introduced in the electoral rolls of Assam in 1997 to mark those who were unable to prove their citizenship during verification. They were mandated to prove their citizenship after receiving a notice from the FT.
According to authorities, the cases of 2.8 lakh people excluded from the NRC are on “Hold” because they belong to four categories: D voters, descendants of D voters, those with cases pending at FTs and their descendants. “We are hopeful that our names will be included in the subsequent rounds,” says Shahzahan.
Express Explained | What it means to be out of NRC
Tayeba Ummi Nazrin, 28, hails from Chaygaon in Kamrup district and is a research scholar in the Arabic department of Gauhati University. The NRC draft, she says, has included some members of her family but left out others – Tayeba, her two brothers and their father are out while her mother and elder sister are in.
”I am worried because I might be required to attend programmes and conferences abroad as part of my research. I hope this confusion over NRC does not cause any problem in procuring a visa. We have all required documents — voters’ lists, land records. We hope our whole family will get through in the next round,” she says.
Shabnam Rahman, 40, a school teacher in Guwahati and the daughter of an ex-IAF personnel, says she’s the only one in her family who has not found a place in the draft. Her husband, son, and everyone else in her family and that of her husband are in the draft.
“She was born in Gujarat, when her father was posted there, and had a birth certificate from that state. But the family lost the original birth certificate issued by the civil hospital in Gujarat and her father had to obtain the birth document from IAF records,” says Shofique Alam, Shabnam’s husband.
”We don’t know if the NRC authorities sent the document to Gujarat for verification or whether they got a response. As for other members of our families, we have legacy records dating back to the 1951 NRC. We are sure that her name will be included in the subsequent rounds of NRC,” he says.
Aitara Begum, 38, a resident of Bhalukabari village in Kamrup district is confused — her husband and five children are in the NRC draft and so are her brothers, but she is out. Aitara’s father, Abul Hussain, is recorded in the 1951 NRC as a 16-year-old. But she feels her exclusion is linked to the non-acceptance of GP certificate that links her to her father. “But I am hopeful. What is there to be scared? I am a genuine Indian and my name will be there in the final NRC,” she says.
Kaniz Fatima Lashkar, 65, was born in Kishanganj in Bihar and moved to Assam to be with her husband after their marriage in 1979. Her husband’s name is in the draft but she and their two children have not made it. Kaniz was a teacher and a public relations officer before retirement. “I believe that in all probability, the documents I submitted were sent to Bihar for verification by NRC authorities. It will be clear why our names are not there after August 7 when the next verification process starts,” she says.