Of no fixed abode: Assam NRC turns Jorhat’s oldest bookstore owner into a ‘foreigner’ overnight

Editor’s Note: Of the 4 million who didn’t make it to NRC, 2.48 lakh have been marked as ‘D’ voters. The Supreme Court has asked Assam government not to take any coercive action on those who are found to be without proper documents as required under recent National Register of Citizens. NRC, a product of Assam Accord, is expected to solve the fear of Bangladeshi immigrants that has been prevalent in the state for quite some time now. The Centre proposed in 1999 an updated NRC in Assam to solve the problem of “illegal immigration” and two pilot projects were conducted in Dhubri and Barpeta districts. But breaking out of a riot in Barpeta grounded the project. In 2005, when All Assam Student Union opposed the prime minister’s visit to the state, tripartite talk between AASU, State government, and the Centre resulted in a decision to prepare a model for the NRC process, which was delayed yet again by over 5 years by the state government. It was only when Abhijeet Sharma of Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO, filed a writ petition in 2009 that the SC’s direct intervention led to the start of NRC process in 2014. Firstpost will run a series which will feature 30 profiles in 30 days of those residents of Assam who have not been covered under the final draft of NRC which will decide if they continue to live in the state that they call ‘home’.

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Jorhat: Mohammed Saikat Ali, who runs one of Jorhat’s oldest bookstores, Kitap Ghar, did not find his name on the final draft of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) which was released on 30 July. Although, the 67-year-old’s name was listed in the NRC of 1951. Once a professional cricketer, Ali played the sport for many local teams during the 60s and 70s. A resident of Dhaka Patti, he claims to be the founding member of several old clubs in the town, along with being associated with the Jorhat District Cricket Association.

Saikat Ali said, “It may be because of some minor anomaly in my document. I was born here, studied in a local Assamese medium school. How come we have become foreigners overnight?” he asked. Even as politicians exchange heated words over politics of NRC and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warns the BJP dispensation of bringing NRC to West Bengal, most of those missing from the NRC list and living in Assam are optimistic about the process. They hope to see their names appear on the list soon despite the failure this time.

People in Nagaon wait to check their names on the final draft of the NRC after it was released on Monday. PTI

People in Nagaon wait to check their names on the final draft of the NRC after it was released on Monday. PTI

Ali said that he had the documents which he will try to use again as proof this time around. “We have all documents, including the legacy data of 1966, and a receipt of tax payment during British government. So I am not at all worried. It is the time to be patient and respect the process that had been only in talks for the longest time,” he said. He also suspects that it could be possible that some mistake or a difference in the spelling of his father’s name could’ve led to the confusion.

It must be noted here that people who came to Assam before 24th March 1971 are being considered as Indian citizen according to Assam Accord. The legacy data document is a type of proof that you can claim to prove your citizenship. This data is accessible online and hard copies of it are also available. Ali asserts that he has the evidence of his father’s name appearing in the electoral roll of 1966 which he is using as legacy data. A person can make use of legacy data available from 1951 to 25 March 1971.

Ironically, Ali’s son Istiaq, 28, runs a computer centre and has been helping people with the application process for the NRC. He said, “Not only my father, there are many people whose names are absent from the list. People from other states like Bihar, West Bengal are facing more problems since most of their documents are yet to be cleared by the respective state governments.” Istiaq’s name has appeared in the NRC.

 

Reference: https://www.firstpost.com/india/of-no-fixed-abode-assam-nrc-turns-jorhats-oldest-bookstore-owner-into-a-foreigner-overnight-4866561.html