Owner of one of Jorhat’s oldest bookstores fails to find his name in NRC

Pratyush Deep | Aug 1, 2018 | 4 min read


Intro to the series:

Of the 4 million who didn't make it to NRC, 2.48 lakhs have been marked as 'D' voters. The Supreme Court has already 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, which is a product of Assam Accord, is expected to solve the fear of Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam that has been prevalent in the state for quite some time now.  It was in 1999 when the centre proposed for an updated NRC in Assam to solve the problem of "illegal immigration." As a result of which two pilot projects of NRC were conducted in Dhubri and Barpeta districts. But breaking out of a riot in Barpeta district 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 Central government resulted in a decision to prepare a model for the NRC process. But state government delayed the whole process for more than 5 years. It was only when Abhijeet Sharma of Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO, filed a writ petition to the Supreme Court in 2009 and through the direct intervention of the Supreme Court that the NRC process started again in 2014 and the long-awaited final draft of NRC was published on July 30.

We uncover the stories of those residents of Assam who have not been covered under the final draft of a list that will decide if they continue to live in the state they have called ‘home’.

Pratyush Deep

Md 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) released on July 30. Although, the 67-year-old’s name was listed in the NRC of 1951, this time his name is absent from it. 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.

While political parties in New Delhi are having a heated debate on the subject of communalism, Mamta Banerjee has dubbed it as an anti-Bengali move. However, most people living in Assam have an optimistic outlook on the process hoping to see their names appear on the list soon despite the failure this time. 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.

Ali said that he had documents that he will try using 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 in the process of applying 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.

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