Barpeta, February 10, 2019
Sahera Khatun had to spend one and a half years in a detention camp, separated from her near and dear ones. On February 8th, 2019, she walked out of the detention camp as an Indian.
She, a resident of Baghbar village in Mandia Tehsil of Barpeta District, Assam, released on a referential order by the Gauhati High Court. As she reached her village, the locals welcomed Sahera and blamed the government for being “irresponsible” and “torturing” the Indian citizens.
“It’s a huge relief for me and my family. I thank the Almighty for His mercy. In the past few months, I had to face severe problems starting from food and cold. It was a terrible experience,” said Sahera while speaking to TIME8 on February 10th, 2019.
Though she had to bear with the ‘foreigner’ tag, the names of her five children and husband Kalu Mia were enlisted in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens. “My parents’ names were enlisted in the voter list of 1966 and 1971,” she added.
Kalu had to take a loan of Rs 3 lakh to cover his wife court proceedings. “Kalu is a barber. After Sahera was arrested, the family faced the worst financial crisis. The children had to cut short their studies. The elder son moved to Guwahati to work as a daily wage earner. He had to repay the loan along with interest of Rs 14,000 every month,” a local said.
Another local said, “Her forefathers’ names were not included in the voters’ list due to certain anomalies and hence she had to suffer despite being an Indian citizen.”
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens residing in Assam. The register was first prepared after the 1951, Census of India.
The NRC is now being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC, 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of March 24th, 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to mid-night of March 24th, 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam or in any part of India on or before March 24th, 1971. The update process of NRC started in the year 2013 under the strict monitoring of the Supreme Court of India.
The Assam government released the second and final draft of NRC on July 30th , 2018. 2,89, 83,677 persons were found eligible out of 3,29,91,384 applicants in the final draft of the NRC. Of these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold. The first draft was released on December 31st (midnight), 2017.