Guwahati: What is going to be the fate of millions of Bengali speaking Muslims in Assam? Ahead of the release of the second list of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, worry is writ large on the faces of the Bengali speaking Muslims who are facing harassment and persecution for a long time.
As things are looking rather very uncertain before the publication of the second list of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, they are all the more worried. They believe if their names don’t appear in the NRC list, they will be sent to deportation camps that have already been set up for aliens in the state.
While many people took a sigh of relief in the aftermath of the publication of the first National Register of Citizens last month, people are worried as the day for the second and final NRC is set to be published soon.
Many people who and whose forefathers have been living in the state for decades are worried and trying to ensure that their names appear in the final NRC. But it is a herculean task.
The Bengali speaking Muslims in Assam have been branded as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. But this is a monumental lie that has been told and retold time and again to drive the Muslims out of the state.
The NRC is not a new project. First time the government had decided to come out with the National Register of Citizens in the immediate aftermath of the Partition in 1951. It was finally decided by the Assam Accord, that all the people who settled in Assam after March 25, 1971, are foreigners, and must be identified and deported back to Bangladesh. Nonetheless, those people who have been living in the state from prior to 25 March 1971 will be taken as legal citizens of the country.
Proving the citizenship
Citizens have to provide proof of their continued residence in the state dating back to March 1971. The first draft of the register was published on December 31, 2017 on the instruction of the Supreme Court. This is a tough task for educated people, but all the more difficult and arduous for poor Bengali speaking Muslims and other poor people who are uneducated and thus are running from pillar to post to prove their citizenship. Many poor people, notwithstanding the fact that their families have been living in the state for more than hundred years, have not enough paper and their names have also been missing from electoral rolls.
Communal violence uprooted many
This may be due to multiple reasons, one being the fact that many people have moved to urban centers looking for jobs and also to educate their children. Other reasons include repeated communal violence in particular areas. There is no denying that the communal violence has uprooted a large number of people, mostly poor Muslims. Many people claim that communal violence in particular areas have been orchestrated with single-minded aim to drive Muslims out of a particular area and destroy the evidence of their being residents of a particular area. Many victims of the violence have said that they lost not just their homes in the mindless communal violence, but also all important papers.
A TV18 report, while quoting Kazi Neel says “My grandfather’s name is mentioned in the 1951 NRC and the 1966 Voters’ list. My father cast his first vote in 1983. But both my parents were declared D-Voters in 1997. My father proved his citizenship, but our names still remain missing in the updated NRC list”.
Even people with proof fear deportation
Iman Bhuyan, another educated Assamese Muslim has similar story to tell. “I have submitted my Legacy Data – documents from 1951, 1965 and 1971. My grandfather was marked as ‘1. INDIAN’. We lived in a village called Tarabari in 1961, but it was completely washed away in erosion, after which my family shifted to Bhogdiya in Barpeta district itself”.
He goes on to add, “Genuine Indian Muslims have very often been harassed as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The government first came up with ‘D-Voter ‘tags, what if they now come up with a D-NRC class?”. While the Supreme Court validated panchayat certificates as proof of residence giving some relief to 29 lakh married women, the verification of the documents and its validation is a tough task and needs support from human rights organizations and social activists. Poor people cannot understand the issues being created by local officials whose bias against Muslims is a historic truth.