From labours constructing detention centers to Army man serving at border all face the wrath of NRC Assam process

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Delhi: Forty-nine-year-old Pradip Kumar Saha, from Assam’s Ranopatti, cast his vote in the 1989 General Elections, but in 2002 he got listed as a D Voter. Despite having approached the Foreign Tribunal (FT) and providing all the necessary documents, his name has not made it to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) released recently in Assam.

“We are a family of 22 and only eight made it to the NRC list, while 14 members were excluded. My father has also not made it to the NRC whereas he had his passport issued in 1955. Government is saying CAB (Citizen Amendment Bill) will come to the rescue for people like us. But how can we trust politicians. They make tall promises and implement none,” rued Saha.

A sense of helpless grips 39-year-old Bassu Ali when he is asked, about his citizenship status and the possibility of him being sent to the detention centres being made in Assam. With a dejected look he states, “If I am denied of my citizenship, I will commit suicide but will never go to the detention centre.”

Daily wage labours building the detention centre. “My name hasn’t come in NRC despite having complete papers,” said Sipali Hajang who hails from Pusimatia in Assam. Sipali is a daily wage labourer at the detention centre. “I am afraid of coming here but have no option but to work for money. I don’t know they will keep me here or not,” she added

The misery began for Ali, the sole bread earner of his family when police arrested him in an alleged false case. “The police arrested me on January 26, 2014, from my residence. Following which I was sent to jail after having spent a single day in the police station. The police called me by another name – Bachchu Sheik. My lawyer also cheated me, by asking me to toe in with what the officials told me. During the interrogation when I told the officers that I was from Karbala, they told me that I was a Bangladeshi and not an Indian. I wasn’t sent off to the detention centre but put up at a small cell with 50 other individuals. I will die, I will commit suicide but will never go there,” says Ali

He claims that he has all the documents but none of the officials what to see it. “They say such documents are available at Pan shop. They say that I am a Bangladeshi. My lawyer also cheated me. When I was in jail my mother used to run the house begging.” Ali who is out on bail has 1951 legacy certificate and Voter ID but has not made it to NRC, Assam.

The tale of Ali is no different from that of Tinkonia Banaipara’s Vinita Banai. She said, “I have all the papers with me and yet my name is not there. My son’s name is there but mine is excluded. I am a daily wager and living in fear as to when I will be sent to jail. I have no money to fight my case.”

However, worse are the cases of daily wage labours building the detention centre. “My name hasn’t come in NRC despite having complete papers,” said Sipali Hajang who hails from Pusimatia in Assam. Sipali is a daily wage labourer at the detention centre. “I am afraid of coming here but have no option but to work for money. I don’t know they will keep me here or not,” she added.

Sanjay Hegde said, “Citizenship is a right to have rights, which itself has been put into questions through NRC. Descendants over generations are now asked to show papers to prove their citizenship. Absence of someone from the NRC list does not prove that someone is not an Indian citizen. To the minds of many people in Assam, all Bengali speaking Muslims are Bangladeshis which is baseless. Behind the 20 lakh people mentioned in NRC, are 20 lakh families and many more lakh people going destitute paying lawyers. This will lead to disenfranchisement and a humongous humanitarian crisis which will put the entire democracy in jeopardy.”

These are the few faces of the 19 lakh individuals in Assam who have not made it to the final NRC list and who share the same destiny – living the much-dreaded detention centres coming up in Assam.

A fact-finding team of United Against Hate (UAH), a people’s collective of individuals working to reduce the hatred mushrooming in India off late, visited Assam recently to explore the aftermath of the final list of NRC. After having spent a couple of days in Assam, they put together their findings in a report and a documentary, which they formally released during a press meet organised at Press Club, New Delhi on September 17.

The team which visited Assam included Nadeem Khan from UAH, senior journalist Prashant Tandon, journalist Sanjay Kumar and documentary filmmaker Afroz Ahmed Sahil. However, the press meet also included Ravi Nair, Supreme Court Advocates Sanjay Hegde and Fuzail Ayyubi as guest speakers.

Nair said, “People migrate for jobs all over India. These poor labourers often lack documents but now they are thinking of making this project All India. India will have to face severe criticism in the upcoming sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. Universal declaration of human rights is being violated dreadfully by this NRC project. Right to nationality is after all non-negotiable.”

Fuzail Ayyubi mentioned, “Foreign Tribunal takes away the basic identity of people. Facing FT itself is harassment. Moreover, the people sitting in the FT are not competent enough to take such major decisions about the lives of millions of people. NO Appellate authority is present within FT. There is no upper layer of appeal making this project more inhuman”.

Nadeem Khan also added that it is on record in Assam Assembly that the CM has met the FT members twice to give directions. This itself questions the unbiased judicial nature of the Foreign Tribunal.

Sanjay Hegde said, “Citizenship is a right to have rights, which itself has been put into questions through NRC. Descendants over generations are now asked to show papers to prove their citizenship. Absence of someone from the NRC list does not prove that someone is not an Indian citizen. To the minds of many people in Assam, all Bengali speaking Muslims are Bangladeshis which is baseless. Behind the 20 lakh people mentioned in NRC, are 20 lakh families and many more lakh people going destitute paying lawyers. This will lead to disenfranchisement and a humongous humanitarian crisis which will put the entire democracy in jeopardy.”

During the meet, a short documentary called “The state of Stateless in Assam” produced and directed by Afroz Ahmed Sahil, a member of the Fact-Finding Team was also screened.

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