Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his 2019 general elections campaign in the northeast with a massive rally in southern Assam’s Silchar earlier this month. Besides the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Prime Minister also spoke about the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in Assam to weed out illegal migrants.
”I know you had to face hassles during the NRC. But let me assure you, not a single genuine Indian would be left out of the final NRC,” said PM Modi.
But what happens to about six lakh individuals who were unable to file their citizenship claims after their names were left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft published in July, ask activists.
As Assam is witnessing protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha last week, the NRC process seems to have taken a back seat.
As the claims and objection phase ended on December 31 last year and verification began soon after, NDTV went to ground zero and found that many poor, genuine Indians could not raise claims because of the complexity in the process.
Barpeta district of Assam, a Muslim majority area, has seen the highest number of citizenship claims. Indra Bhanu Majumdar, 58, is poor and illiterate. He supports his family of nine by chopping and selling wood. The names of his two daughters were missing from the NRC draft, he said.
Every time he went to the local Nagrik Sewa Kendra, no one had the time to help him, he alleged.
“I don’t understand all this. If they have the names of my wife, our other children, then the names of my daughters should also be included,” Mr Majumdar told NDTV.
Abhijit Sarkar can read and write, but he found the NRC process to be complex and confusing. He said he missed the deadline. Does this mean he can be denied his citizenship?
”My name was left out in the NRC draft. I attended two hearings for reverification. I also got the claims form. We tried collecting documents, but I missed the deadline. I don’t know what will happen next,” Mr Sarkar said.
The same story repeats in Mazgaon in Barpeta.
Abdul Halim and his family stayed in Bengaluru for four years. They have documents to show that they were residents of Assam before 1971, but by the time they got around to gathering these documents, it was too late.
”We were away as migrant workers for four years and during that period our village didn’t have much phone connectivity, so we got to know about the NRC late, but by the time we returned to Assam and collected all documents, it was late for us to apply. For three years, we have been making the rounds to submit our documents, but to no avail,” Mr Halim said.