Fate of ‘NRC discarded’ refugee families hangs in balance

From Saurav Borah

GUWAHATI: The fate of over 3,000 people belonging to about 500 families who migrated to lower Assam’s Kamrup district from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1964 hangs in the balance with their names excluded from the National Register of Citizens.

The relief eligibility certificate issued to a migratory family in Assam. ST photo

Sources said these people belonging to Hajong, Koch, Bengali, Garo, Rajbongshi, Dalu and Banai communities, had produced relief eligibility certificates in accordance with the apex court’s orders. These certificates were issued to them by the then ministry of rehabilitation.

Having spent over half a century in locations such as Manah Colony, Milanpur, Patinibasti, Bhurkibari, Lamgaon and PL Home under Choudhurypara revenue village in Chaygaon constituency, the prospect of making frequent trips to a foreigners tribunal to again prove their citizenship now looms large.

A majority of them are daily wage earners, economically disadvantaged and hence more worried.

“We have stayed in Assam for more than half a century but now find ourselves pushed to a corner. Most of us are daily wage earners and are worried whether we would have the resources to go all the way,” Renu Bala Das, 70, of Manah Colony, rued.

Sources said the government had facilitated a permanent shelter (PL Home) at Choudhurypara revenue village.

Janata Barman and Ajit Biswas, from Manah Colony, share the same sentiment, apprehending an ordeal to prove their legitimacy.

“We fail to fathom how a valid document like the relief eligibility certificate produced in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directive, was not considered,” Barman said.

Biswas said the elected representative had promised legal help but has not visited their village to take stock of their plight.

The village headman, Madan Das however said that the residents had submitted a memorandum to the Chaygaon circle officer in this regard and the authority has assured necessary action in the coming days.

Uncertainty grips villagers

Meanwhile, a sense of uncertainty has gripped sections of people “left out” of the NRC in both Kamrup and Barpeta, two districts where the pilot project for the update of the citizens’ register was taken back in 2010 only to be shelved after violence erupted in Barpeta.

“Many villagers excluded from the final NRC are in a state of uncertainty. There are many whose children/relatives have failed to make the cut. Many do not know where to seek information regarding filing appeals in foreigners’ tribunals,” a resident of Goroimari in Kamrup district told The Shillong Times on Thursday.

The situation is almost similar in Barpeta.

“Many people are facing a problem where some members of their family have not been included. In my case, my 65-year-old mother’s name is not there in the list even as the rest of the family has been included. It’s a tense wait for the notification for appeals now,” said Nimai Mandal, 42, of Barpeta Road.

NRC authorities here say that preparations are under way to send notices through the deputy commissioners’ office or the circle office to the people excluded from the final list.

“We have not been intimated from the circle office as to when the process of sending notifications to people for filing appeals would begin. But what we have heard from media reports is that the process might begin from next week and that the 120-day period for filing appeals would begin from the date of receipt of the notification,” an official told this correspondent here.

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