GUWAHATI/UDALGURI: For Rekha Begum in Assam, July 30 was just another day when the final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published as she was already featured in the first draft which was announced on December 31 of 2017.

But on the next day, she was shocked to find that her name has been deleted from the final draft.

“It’s terrible not to see my name. My name was in the first draft. My kids were crying. They were saying that they would also accompany me if I’m deported to Bangladesh. I couldn’t have my dinner,” 35 year old Rekha, a resident of Bhella in Assam’s Barpeta district, told The Citizen.

Rekha is one of the 40 lakh people who have been left out from the final draft of the NRC.

The first NRC was prepared in 1951 to distinguish Indian citizens from illegal migrants from then East Pakistan (now, Bangladesh). Now it’s being updated by the Registrar General of India under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India and the updating process started in 2015.

The updating of NRC is the outcome of the Assam Agitation, a six year-long mass agitation to free the state from illegal immigration. It took place from 1979 to 1985 and which came to an end after the signing of Assam Accord with the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The updated NRC, now, features the names of those persons or their descendants whose names appeared in the NRC, 1951 or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to March 25 of 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to midnight of the same period, which would prove their presence in Assam.

Rekha said that all her family members have been included in the list. “My parents, siblings, my husband and kids have been included in the list. I had submitted my father Nur Mohammad Ali’s mother’s legacy data of 1951 NRC,” Rekha added.

She had submitted Gram Panchayat certificate as her identity proof as she didn’t attend school. The Supreme Court of India in a verdict though allowed the Panchayat certificates as one of the documents to prove legality, but asked the NRC document verifying authorities to check these thoroughly.

There are around 48 lakh such certificates issued by the Gram Panchayat were submitted during the process by married women.

Rekha who works as a domestic help in Guwahati said that she is scared now. “We are financially not sound. My husband is a driver and the little money we both earn, are spent in educating the kids and daily expenses. If my name didn’t appear in the final list, what my kids would do,” Rekha added.

Activists in Assam have appealed to the NRC authorities to verify documents carefully and ensure that no genuine Indian citizens are left out of the list. Though the government and the NRC authorities have repeatedly been saying that plenty of opportunities will be given to those who didn’t find their names in the final draft, the sense of fear is gripping the people as most of the people are financially poor and illiterate.

The people whose names have been excluded will get the chance for claims and objections from August 30 to September 28 by filling up a form at the NRC Seva Kendras.

“When the honourable Supreme Court has said to accept the panchayat certificates as valid documents, why these documents are not taken seriously? We appeal to the NRC authorities to do the verification carefully during the window period,” Rejaul Sarkar Karim, president of All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), told The Citizen.

Even if someone is dropped from the final list, the individuals will have the option to approach the foreigners’ tribunals.

But for someone like Jaymati Das, 55, life is extremely tough. Jaymati’s husband Gopal Das, 65, allegedly committed suicide after he was served notice by the foreigners’ tribunal to prove his citizenship in June this year.

Jaymati, a resident of Nichilamari village in Assam’s Udalguri district which is near Indo-Bhutan border, said that the advocate had asked Rs 15,000 for the case and which was a huge task for them to gather at that moment.

“I’m tired of all these. I have lost my husband. I too had to prove that I’m an Indian along with my two sons. I just don’t know what to do,” Jaymati told The Citizen.

NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela said that people can approach the NRC Seva Kendras, process started from August 10, to know the reasons why their names have been kept out. Following that from August 30 till September 28, all the claims and objections will be accepted, he said.