Of no fixed abode: Beedi worker Fajlul Hoque holds legacy documents from 1942, yet misses NRC ticket in Assam

Of no fixed abode: Beedi worker Fajlul Hoque holds legacy documents from 1942, yet misses NRC ticket in Assam

Of no fixed abode: Beedi worker Fajlul Hoque holds legacy documents from 1942, yet misses NRC ticket in Assam

Beedi worker with name missing in NRC finds case registered against him in foreigners’ tribunal since 2002


Guwahati: Fifty-eight-year-old Fajlul Hoque from Assam’s Dhubri district, 270 km from Guwahati, was quite sure until July that his name would feature in the National Register of Citizens (NRC). After all, what could go wrong? He had submitted all the required documents to prove he was a “genuine” citizen of the country.


The NRC list released on July 30 burst his bubble. His name was missing from the draft but worst was yet to come. It was only after this rejection that Fajlul got to know that a case has been running against him at the foreigners’ tribunal since 2002.


“In 16 years, not once did I get a notice from the tribunal informing me about the case. What was I supposed to do?” asks Fajlul, who rolls beedis for a living in Balajan Part-2 village in Gauripur.


He adds, “I only got to know about this when the NRC officials in Balajan NRC Sewa Kendra told me that I wasn’t included in the list because a case was pending against me at the Kamrup Metro Foreigners’ Tribunal. They told me I was case number 772/2002.”


After many sleepless nights of sifting through his memories, Fajlul says he now remembers the circumstances that led to the case being registered against him.


Fajlul says that he had once been mistaken for an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant when he was in Guwahati in 2002.


“Those days, I was working as a rickshaw puller in Maligaon. I had come to Guwahati in 2001 in search of job opportunities. Things were going well until August 2002 when I was rounded up by police on suspicion of being a Bangladeshi national. I was taken to Jalukbari Police Station. They noted down my name and asked me to name a few people from my native village including the village head. They told me it was not safe for me to work in Guwahati and let me off,” he says.


After sometime Fajlul returned to his village and thought no more of the incident. Three months later, in November 2002, a team of border police from the Golakganj Police Station under Dhubri district visited his house.


“The policemen said that they had received a notice in my name from the Jalukbari Police Station in Guwahati and I needed to show my documents. I showed them my land and legacy documents. I also made them talk to the village head. After that the team asked me for some chai-pani money. I gave them Rs. 100 and they left saying that I would not be disturbed again. And I wasn’t. I thought the matter was over and completely forgot it over the years. But now my family is suffering too,” says Fajlul.


Fajlul’s three sons and two grandchildren have also been excluded from the NRC.


Fajlul says his family had submitted legacy documents and land deeds after they applied for the NRC on 12 July, 2015. Pre-1971 legacy documents are required to prove that one’s ancestors were living in Assam before 24 March, 1971.


“I gave my late father Khamir Ali’s land document from 1942. He was in the voters’ list since 1966. My three daughters-in-law and wife have made it to the list. But since I was rejected, my children did not stand a chance,” he says.


Fajlul says he was enrolled as a voter in 1980. “I am a bona fide citizen of this country. When I didn’t find my name in the first list of the NRC everyone told me that I shouldn’t worry and that no genuine citizen would be left out of the NRC. But now I’m anxious. I have got in touch with an advocate but in most cases it takes the tribunal years to deliver a judgment,” he says.


Social worker in Dhubri, Illias Rahman Sarkar, says that at least 90% of the 5,000 residents of Balajan Part-2 have been enlisted in the NRC, but Fajlul’s is a peculiar case.


Illias says Fajlul has every reason to worry as he is running out of time.


“It might take years for Fajlul to prove that he is a genuine citizen. The updated NRC draft is supposed to be out by 31 December. He is left with just a few months to prove his citizenship which seems like an impossible task,” says Illias.


In Assam, over four million people have been left out of the final draft of the NRC and the process to file claims and objections is going on in 2,500 NRC Sewa Kendras across the state.


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