Syeda Ambia Zahan | Aug 1, 2018 | 4 min read
Social worker who held camps on NRC awareness left out of list
Guwahati: Masuma Begum, a 25-year-old social worker, has lost count of the number of camps she and her friends held in remote areas of western Assam in the past three years, telling people that they should welcome the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and helping them gather documents to establish their identity as Indians.
Masuma says it must be a “cruel joke” that she, who went from door to door, extolling the benefits of the NRC was left out of the list released on 30 July.
“After the NRC process began three years ago, my friends and I organized many awareness meetings telling people why NRC would benefit them and which documents they should submit. My entire family has made it to the list, including my siblings, but I have been excluded,” says the postgraduate in Assamese from Cotton University.
“I love my land and its people so much. I belong here as much as anybody else. I will resubmit my application,” says Masuma.
Three generations of Masuma’s family have lived in Lakhimpur district since 1942. The young woman was born in North Lakhimpur, a small town along the border of Arunachal Pradesh. Today, she works towards creating awareness on social and health issues among char (riverside) dwellers of Assam who are often labelled as “Bangladeshi” because of their social and cultural similarities with those from the neighbouring country. She often travels to riverine areas from Guwahati, where she lives, to create awareness on evils of child marriage, need for menstrual hygiene among women and importance of girl education.
Masuma’s forefathers had migrated to Assam from East Pakistan. “They came towards the end of the 19th Century. We have documents to show ownership of land in Assam dating back to 1902,” she says.
Masuma’s family had applied for the NRC on July 14, 2015. Masuma, who has been a voter since 2014, had submitted her voter identity card, her birth certificate and other relevant documents.
“I was happy when the government had announced that the NRC would be updated. I thought that it would bring relief to those people in my state who are often accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and treated as second class citizens,” she says.
“It is frustrating that I can’t pin down why my name was not included in the NRC. My younger brother and sister are on the list. Some people consoled me saying that it must have been a technical glitch as many genuine citizens have found their names missing from the NRC. But what use is this sympathy? I can’t have peace of mind until my name is on the list,” she says.
"We have been creating awareness among people about the process of NRC since 2015 and Masuma has very actively participated in this over the past few years. She is well educated and informed, but it is sad that her name din't appear in the final list. Imagine if her name is not in the list, what would happen to those who are not educated," quips Shakil Ahmed, an activist and freelance scribe from Barpeta.
Masuma’s father Abdul Matin, 50, says that the family is hopeful that her name would be on the final list.
“Mistakes have been made and genuine citizens have been left out but one should not question the entire process of the NRC. The anomalies will be resolved soon,” he says.
Masuma admits that the wait to become an Indian “citizen” would be agonizing, but in the meantime she is determined to hold more NRC awareness camps to ensure those people whose names are not in the final draft can submit their forms to file claims and objections, submission of which would be started from August 30.
“Many people are not educated enough and a mistake in their forms this time could be a major setback. I will submit my form to file claim in September and I will help as many others as I can,” she says.
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