Assam Tense as 19 Lakhs Left Out of NRC, Legislators and Soldiers Do Not Make the Grade
Army soldier Sanaullah and 2 daughters not in List
GUWAHATI: Assam has reacted adversely to the much awaited and anticipated final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that has left out over 19 lakh names through a process that has created panic amongst helpless citizens, and not inspired trust and confidence.
“It has been found that a total of 31,121,004 numbers of persons are found eligible for inclusion in final NRC leaving out 1,906,657 numbers of persons,” said a statement of the NRC authorities on Monday.
The NRC is being updated for the first time after 1951 in the state in a bid to identify and disenfranchise “illegal” migrants under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. The process started end May, 2015 and ended August 31. A total of 33,027,661 persons submitted the paper work..
“The entire process of NRC update has been meticulously carried out in an objective and transparent manner. Adequate opportunity of being heard has been given to all persons at every stage of the process. The entire process is conducted as per statutory provisions and due procedure followed at every stage,” said the NRC statement.
The NRC update is a result of the six-year long Assam agitation in 1980s to drive out illegal foreigners from Assam after the indigenous people reacted against “large-scale infiltration” from neighbouring Bangladesh.
The process, however has raised more questions than it has answered. Present and former legislators have been excluded from the final list, with family members. A retired Indian Army soldier Mohammad Sana Ullah was sent to the detention centre also was unable to find his name in the list even now.
“My name and son and daughters are not there in the list. It’s definitely painful but I have to be patient enough and wait for the order of the court. I have faith in the judicial system of our country,” Sana Ullah told this correspondent.
Along with him, daughters, Shahnaz Akhtar and Hilmina Akhtar and son Saeed Akhtar have been kept on hold with their case for citizenship in the Gauhati High Court. The name of his wife is however on the list. The soldier however, thanked the NRC authorities for including the names of rest of his family members.
Sanaullah, a resident of Kalahikash village in Kamrup district of Assam, said he had joined the Army in 1987 and had also served in Doda and Kupwara in trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir. But he was sent to the detention centre earlier this year after a Foreigners’ Tribunal had ordered that Sana Ullah had ‘miserably failed to establish his statutory burden under section 9 of Foreigners Act 1946 to establish his linkage to his parentage of Indian soil prior to March 25 of 1971’ and also failed to establish the fact that he is an Indian citizen by birth.
On the other hand, former AIUDF legislator from Katigorah Ataur Rahman Majharbhuyan is visibly hocked at not being included in the final list of citizens.
“The roots of our forefathers can be traced since several centuries. I have the land documents of the year 1925. There is a land document in my father’s name in the year 1948. But the NRC authorities haven’t seen these documents. I have submitted all the documents. And my name was there in the first list,” the two-term MLA said.
Along with Majharbhuyan, his daughters and son’s name were also struck off from the second and final draft of the NRC list published on July 30, 2018. Though he suspected some foul play, Majharbhuyan vowed to follow the guidelines set by the Supreme Court and the Union home ministry.
The government, given the widespread protest, has now given the assurance that those left out of the final list will be given opportunities to prove their citizenship.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that who have been left out will not be treated as foreigners. “These cases will be taken special care of. We will prove all the possible assistance. So, there is no need to panic. I would appeal to all the people to maintain peace and harmony,” Sonowal said.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs recently said that exclusion [from the list] would not amount to a person being declared a foreigner as that can only be done by a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT), a special court set up to deal with the foreigners’ issues in Assam. According to the ministry, those who cannot afford legal services would also be provided legal help by the state government.
The MHA, in a statement two weeks ago, also said it will amend the rules to increase the present time limit of filing of appeals in FTs from 60 days to 120 days regarding exclusion.
To maintain law and order the state has got an additional 51 companies of security forces along with the present 167 companies, said Assam Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia.
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the influential students’ body who spearheaded the Assam agitation to drive out the illegal foreigners said that they will approach the Supreme Court again seeking rectification.
“We are not satisfied at all and unhappy. This number is very less and nowhere comes to closer to the numbers often pronounced by the government in different times. We have full faith on the judiciary and we want a state free from the illegal migrants,” said AASU chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya.
Photographs SURAJIT SHARMA