ASSAM |September 16, 2019 (IANS):
Although the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is expected to end the doubts over citizenship credentials of some people in Assam, yet the publication of the 'historical' document by the Assam government on August 31 only pushed them for a long legal battle.
The family of 51-year old Subimal Hajong has been living at Dera Pathar village in Hojai district of Assam since 1963. A refugee from the erstwhile East Pakistan, the Hajongs came to Dalu in Meghalaya from East Pakistan in 1963 and later shifted to Assam.
Being a Hajong tribesman, Subimal never had to bother about the citizenship issue. However, the retired Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB) man is now worried as the names of his mother Durgamoni Hajong (76) and brother Sukumar Hajong (43) were excluded from the final NRC published last month.
"Our father Parimal Hajong migrated from the then East Pakistan to India. First he took shelter at Dalu (in Meghalaya) after crossing the Indo-Bangladesh border and then shifted to Assam in 1963. He joined the government run Gram Sevak Training Centre at Khanapara in Assam in 1966 and retired from service from there. We have all the documents like my father's appointment letter and papers showing that he was a pensioner. And yet the names of my mother and brother were excluded," said Subimal.
While the name of Subimal was also excluded from the draft NRC published last year, his name is included in the recently published final NRC list. While two of his other brothers' name also figured in the NRC, his younger brother Sukumar and mother, Durgamoni failed to make it to the final NRC.
"How is this possible? We all have given the same documents of our father. Yet names of my mother and younger brother were not included in the NRC. If there were problems, our names also should not have been there," he said while lamenting the bureaucratic mess that he believes, have led to the rejection.
Dera Pathar village is inhabited by Hajongs, Dalu, Koch and Bengalis.
Most of these people are descendants of refugees of erstwhile East Pakistan who came to Assam in 1960s. While there are over 11,000 voters in the area, names of only about 6,000 of them could only make it to the final NRC, which is now worrying the people who failed to make it to the NRC.
"My name is included in the final NRC but the names of my wife and son were not there. How is this possible. My father and my wife's father were refugees from East Pakistan and we have all the relevant documents to prove that. We have submitted the valid documents and yet their names were not there in the NRC. We are poor people and spent lots of money already appearing the hearings. Where will we get money to appeal in the Foreigners' Tribunal once again?" Subimal said.
"Never in our lives, anyone have ever looked down upon us as foreigners. We lived a normal life here in this village. Everything was normal until the NRC. Now the names of mine, my wife and my daughter were not there in the NRC," said 44-year-old Babul Hajong, a grandson of Late Brindaban Hajong, who came to the village from the then East Pakistan in 1963.
Babul said that Brindaban Hajong and many other refugees, who arrived in Dera Pathar in 1966 and after that were also given 7.5 bighas of land by the then Assam government in 1967 to settle down in the village.
Although the government has made it clear that those excluded will neither be detained nor be termed a foreigners, the assurance is far from convincing for the residents of Dera Pathar. It's not the citizenship that they are worried about but the long legal battle that lies ahead of them to prove their Indianness once again.