Fourty-eight-year old Sunil Sarkar, a tailor by profession in Dimoria village, about 40 km away from Guwahati, has been anxious ever since Assam released its citizen list. His Bengali-Hindu parents migrated from Sylhet, a city earlier in eastern Pakistan and now in eastern Bangladesh, to Assam’s Nagaon in the 1960s over “fears of religious persecution”, he says.
Sarkar can’t read or write. He does not have a birth certificate. But he claims he was born in Assam.
In 2015, he was served a notice over his citizenship by the Foreigners Tribunal that later ruled he was an Indian citizen. But he and his family of three do not figure in the Assam citizen list.
“In the first draft of Assam citizen list, names of three of my family members had figured. We had submitted my father’s citizenship document. His name was in the electoral roll before 1971 yet the entire family has been left out in the second citizen draft. We are preparing to move the top court,” Sarkar told NDTV.
The state government on Friday rolled out the process of filing of claims and objections to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft published on July 30. The citizen list had left out over 40 lakh people living in the state, who now have to prove their citizenship.
As thousands turned up at their nearest Nagrik Sewa Kendras on Friday, NDTV visited some of these centres and found out that most people, left out in the citizen draft, had issues with their legacy document – the key to proving citizenship in Assam.
While the window for the claims and objection to the draft NRC has been opened for these 40 lakh people, the modalities for filling the claims are yet to be finalised. The NRC authorities have to present a new set of modalities for the citizens left out in the draft to the Supreme Court on August 16.
“My name and my mother-in-law’s name did not feature in the list. We have the linkage documents for our parents and in-laws — from panchayat certificates to all other documents. Today we were told that our legacy linkage documents have not been accepted. This is the case with thousands of married women. We have no more new documents to submit,” says Rahima Begum from Khetri in Kamrup district with tears in her eyes.
Thousands of anxious people like Rahima thronged the NSKs on Friday to understand why they were left out of the citizen list.
In Sonapur, 10 km from Dimoria, 100 people of an extended Muslim family were left out over a single legacy document error.
“We have about 100 people in our extended family and all of us used the legacy document of my father. There are issues with that. In the 1951 NRC, my father’s name has been published erroneously as Suban Seikh instead of Suban Ali. Now we are bearing the brunt,” says Mohammad Sadek Ali. He says even court affidavits have failed to resolve the issue.
In Guwahati, among those missed out in the list are mostly migrants in search of livelihood. They have to now prove with valid documents that their parents were living in India before 1971.
Some of these migrants claim that many states have not sent back legacy documents sent from Assam for cross-checking.
“In my family, my name and my wife’s name do not figure on the list but the names of our children feature in the list. Today they told me that there is discrepancy in my legacy document. I am originally from Bihar and grandfather’s legacy document apparently has some issue. I will have to go to native home and figure it out,” says Rajib Shah, a migrant from Bihar’s Motihari.
While Supreme Court’s decision on how the claims and objections would be dealt with will set the ball rolling towards a final citizen list for Assam, people left out are left with only a single chance to prove their citizenship.