Biswa Kalyan Purkayastha | Aug 11, 2018 | 4 min read
Silchar: His roots may be in Gujarat, but for Santanu Naik, Assam, where he was born in 1964, is home. An advocate and former RSS functionary, Santanu can speak Gujarati, Bengali and Assamese with equal finesse and participates with as much rigour in Bihu as he does in Durga Puja. But today, he is faced with the prospect of being termed foreigner in a country his family has lived for decades.
Santanu, a resident of Silchar, and his two children have been excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) released on July 30.
“I can’t think of living anywhere else. Assam is where we belong. Despite being Gujaratis, we never felt like outsiders here. This is a land of diversity, it welcomed us and through the years we imbibed its culture and tradition,” says Santanu, former President (Northeast zone) of RSS’s lawyers’ wing Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad.
Santanu’s father, Phakor Bhai Naik, was a freedom fighter from Ancheli village in Navsari district, Gujarat, who moved to Assam in 1945.
“He was part of a team sent by RSS to spread the message of revolution in these parts. The nation got independence, but my father never left,” says Santanu.
He says that he had submitted documents proving his father as a voter in Assam but his name was not in the final draft. His mother and wife, however, made it to the list.
Santanu says he is hopeful his name would feature in the updated NRC which is likely to come out in December this year.
“NRC is a complex procedure. It is an initiative meant to remove illegal immigrants from our country, not genuine citizens. We have documents to prove our citizenship, why should we fear? I’m sure this issue will be resolved and my name along with my children will be in the updated NRC,” says Santanu.
His mother, however, finds it hard to share his optimism.
Santa Naik says, “I moved to Silchar from Tripura in late 1950s after my marriage. Those were turbulent times. A lot of Hindus fled Bangladesh fearing religious persecution. My husband worked tirelessly for their rehabilitation. My son is also working for betterment of the community and I feel proud of him. But his name along with those of my grandchildren is not in the NRC draft which has made me very anxious. My son assures me there is nothing to worry. But I’m his mother and I can’t help it.”
Santanu is now busy providing free legal aid to other NRC left-outs like him in a camp set up in Barak Valley. The procedure of filing claims and objections has begun from August 10.
The camp has been set up by North Eastern Linguistic Ethnic Co-ordination Committee (NELECC), an organization formed earlier this year in Barak Valley. Santanu is a part of the NELECC which has raised its voice in support of Hindus who came to India from Bangladesh post independence. The organization is working in support of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. The amendment allows illegal immigrants belonging to minority communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to apply for Indian citizenship after six years of their residence in India. These minority communities include Hajongs (Hindus), Sikhs, Chakmas (Buddhists), Jains, Parsis and Christians.
Dhrubendu Shekhar Bhattacharjee, a lawyer in the Supreme Court and member of the NELECC, says, “Many Hindu families from Bangladesh came to India after Partition, it is the responsibility of the Indian government to give them shelter. There were treaties signed by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi that gave unconditional shelter to persecuted Hindus in India. But the Assam Accord signed by Rajiv Gandhi has led to harassment of many Hindus for more than three decades. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 will bring them relief.”
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