Guwahati: Thirty six year old Jibon Das from Tamulpur of Assam’s Baksa district was worried about his two years old son’s future. Thanks to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published exactly three years ago on August 31, 2019, in the state. Jibon’s name was not featured in the list.
“What will happen to me and my family? My name is not there in the NRC list and now everyone doubts about my nationality. I am worried about my son’s future. From getting admission in schools to living a dignified life, my son’s future is in the shadow of fear and darkness,” lamented Das.
On August 31, 2019, final NRC list was released in which names of 19, 06,657 people out of some 3, 30, 27,661 applicants were not included raising doubts about their citizenship.
But the ordeal was not limited to the exclusion of NRC list alone. Though the government had said that those excluded would be given chance to fight for proving their nationality in foreigners’ tribunals, even the issuance of a ‘rejection slip’ to them was yet to be started three years later with the matter once again challenged before the Supreme Court.
Immediately after the release of NRC, its errors were started to come to light and questions on the list’s correctness raised. Shortly after the final NRC was published, Assam Public Works, an NGO that is at the center of the NRC case in the Supreme Court, demanded a complete reverification of the list. But the apex court rejected the plea on July 23, 2019.
Subsequently, in September 2020, Assam government made a formal submission before the Assam State Assembly demanding 10-20 percent reverification of the NRC list especially in districts located adjoining to Bangladesh.
Later in May 2021, Assam’s State Coordinator of the NRC again moved Supreme Court demanding a reverification of the NRC published on August 31, 2019 saying that due to major irregularity many names of ineligible people had made it to the list.
With Covid 19 outbreak disrupting court proceedings, the matter was still pending before the Supreme Court.
“Three years have gone by and nothing has changed. Our confusion, fear and harassments continue. Moreover, with a new tag of suspected foreigner for so long, our lives have become nothing short of hell,” Das cried.
Zamser Ali, Assam State Coordinator of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a non-governmental organisation, which has been providing legal assistance to those who were left out of the draft NRC, said, “From Bengali to religious minorities, to Gorkhas and even tribals, all have become victims of the situation. Everyone is suffering.”
Assam government has already announced that those left out of the NRC final list would neither be labelled as ‘foreigners’ nor ‘arrested’ till the matter is in court, but have to take the Foreigners’ Tribunal route to prove their citizenship.
“A long legal battle is still awaited for these lakhs of people to prove their citizenship,” Ali added.