A number of families and individuals in Assam have expressed disbelief over not being included in the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on Monday.
Among those left out are the kin of India’s former president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. “We could not apply in time,” said the former president’s grand nephew Sajid Ali Ahmed. The family of four, which lives in Rangia, could not apply for inclusion in the NRC because they had failed to find their names in the legacy data, consisting of the 1951 NRC and electoral rolls of up to March 25, 1971.
“By the time we realised that we can submit documents other than the legacy data and went to the NRC officials, they told us it was too late,” said Sajid, whose grandfather Ekramuddin Ali Ahmed was the former president’s brother. He said they will submit the documents now.
Interestingly, the exclusions also have a fair share of Hindu Bengalis. Among them is the wife of Dilip Kumar Pal, the BJP legislator from Silchar and former deputy speaker of the Assam assembly. But Pal laughed off the exclusion, saying the “entire process was monitored by the Supreme Court”.
Pal’s family, like thousands of other Hindus, fled to Barak Valley from East Pakistan fearing persecution after the partition. Pal said his wife Archana submitted all the documents that were needed for her inclusion in the NRC. “There are lakhs of people who are not there. More than four lakh in three Barak Valley districts alone,” he said.
She is not the only one. Similar confusion greeted visitors to the Das household in Pandu, a settlement by the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati. “I was born here,” said Basanti Das, the 60-year-old mother. “We submitted the refugee registration card of my husband issued in 1956.”
While the names of Basanti, her daughter Jhumur, son-in-law Pritish Chandra Das and their three children do not figure in the draft, the names of her husband’s other family members who live in Goalpara are there.
Around 20% of the 51,000 applications in Pandu have not found a place in the NRC list, said CK Baisya, a senior official at the Pandu NRC Nagrik Seva Kendra. “All kinds of people — Muslims, Bengali Hindus and Biharis — have not found a place (in the list),” he said.
There is a reason for this, the state NRC explains.
“Every individual in the family has to prove his link to the legacy person through a proper document,” said Prateek Hajela, state coordinator of the NRC. “It may be the case that one person has submitted the correct document while the other family member has not.”
“Claims and objections will be a more expansive exercise,” he added.
Coming as a relief for these people is a Supreme Court instruction that Monday’s list not be used as the basis for coercive action by any authority. “What has been published is a complete draft NRC. It can’t be the basis for any action by any authority,” said a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman even as attorney general KK Venugopal pointed to the magnitude of the problem.
Pal is confident that Hindus have nothing to fear. “Modiji promised the citizenship amendment bill. No Hindu is Bidesi (foreigner) in India,” he said.
But for Basanti Das, the bill — which promises protect Hindus and five other communities — remains an empty promise. “They only give bhashan (speeches),” she said, angry at her family’s exclusion.