New Delhi/Guwahati: Assam endured incessant rain on the morning of August 31, but it could not deter people from stepping out of their homes in large numbers and gathering at their respective National Register of Citizens (NRC) Seva Kendras and cyber cafes. Many of them were glued to their cell phones with high-speed internet services. As the clock struck 10, they were validated as Indian citizens or were left in the lurch to prove their citizenship before Foreigner Tribunals after the final list of the citizenry register was out.
Among them was decorated Honorary Flight Lieutenant (retired) Chabindra Sarma from Biswanath Chariali in Assam. As he put his Application Reference Number (ARN) to check his name in the final list of legal Indian citizens, he couldn’t believe the result. He went to the nearest NRC Seva Kendra to confirm by manually checking his name in the hard copy of the citizens’ log, but had to return with disappointment as he could not make it to the list.
He had used the same legacy data that his parents and children are registered with, and all of them have managed to find their names in the list. More than 19 lakh people have been excluded from the final NRC list and over 3 crore have been found eligible for inclusion.
“I am extremely disappointed. I am still unable to believe how I could fail the citizenship test. This is despite having served the nation for around 38 years,” the 57-year-old ex-serviceman told NewsClick.
The ex-junior commissioned officer said that the system failed him despite attending three NRC hearings. “During ‘Claims and Objections’ conducted post publication of the draft NRC (on July 30, 2018), I was called for hearings thrice. After I re-submitted the legacy data and family tree along with additional documents to prove my citizenship and linkage with my family, the officials had assured me that my name would be included in the final list,” he said.
He said he had submitted the 1951 legacy data of his father, his matriculation certificate, service identity card, Aadhaar card to establish his citizenship. After he was not included in the first draft published on December 31, 2017 and final draft made public in July last year, he was told that his linkage was not established.
“Doesn’t it sound funny? My parents and children who used the same legacy documents were included, but not me. I am linked to my father and my children are linked to me,” Sarma said, adding he would take legal recourse and prove his citizenship before the tribunal.
“I am an Indian without any doubt and I don’t have any problem to prove it. I have served the country’s armed forces and retired with flying colours,” he said.
Sarma was accorded the honorary rank of flying officer on August 15, 2017, and he retired as honorary flight lieutenant on February 28, 2018.
He acknowledges the fact that the process of NRC update was a mammoth exercise, which involved thousands of employees, technology and over 6 crore documents submitted by 3.3 crore people who were scrutinised. But he still raises questions on the exclusion of “lakhs” of original inhabitants from the list. “There are fair chances of human errors, but how can you repeat mistakes time and again? Repetition of clerical errors at three consecutive occasions – one, when first draft was out; two, when complete draft was published; and three, when final list was made public – makes it difficult to believe that it was just a human error,” he opined.
Sarma has served at several places across India – with postings in Assam, West Bengal, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan among other places. During the Kargil War, he was working at the Tezpur Air Force base.
His service was appreciated by President Ramnath Kovind last year.
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