Guwahati/New Delhi: The past four months were not easy for 30-year-old activist Shahjahan Ali, a resident of Aikhari Bilor Pather in Jalah Revenue Circle, Baksa district, Assam. He has been travelling across western Assam districts to help those people who were left of out from the draft list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state and file fresh claims of citizenship. He, however, has been handed an injustice by the final list of ‘genuine’ citizens. He, including 30 members of his family, failed to prove that they are legal Indian citizens of Assam despite connecting their ancestry to his grandfather who — according to the 1951 NRC — was an Indian citizen.
The four-year exercise to update the NRC finally came to an end on August 31, with over 19 lakh people failing to make it to the roster of bonafide Indian citizens. Of the 3.3 crore people who had applied to be included in the NRC, 3,11,21,004 (3.11 crore approx) were found eligible for inclusion in the final NRC list — leaving out 19,06,657 persons, including those who did not submit claims. To be included in the citizenry list, an individual has to prove that they or their ancestors entered the country before midnight on March 24 (midnight), 1971.
Of 33 members of Ali’s family, only three made it to the draft and the final NRC. He, along with all members of his family had used the legacy of his grandfather Mokfed Ali, whose name is mentioned in the 1951 NRC. After their names were excluded from the draft, which was published last year, they filed a claim and submitted electoral rolls of 1951 and 1965 of their ancestors as additional documents.
Also read: Assam NRC: Uncertain Future Stares at Over 19 Lakh Disenfranchised People
All the 30 family members, including Ali, were called for hearings four times (thrice at NRC Seva Kendra located at Jalah, which is around 60 km from their place, and once at Barama, which is 40 km) for hearings. He said he was assured by the officials concerned that they would be included in the final NRC as the issue with their ‘family tree’ has been rectified. But when the final list came out, the assurance turned out to be mere lip service.
“Following our claims and an objection after exclusion of 30 members of our family from the draft NRC, we were called for hearing four times at two different locations. We were told that there was a minor issue with our family tree. I myself saw the CVR (Combined Verification Report), which was also reflecting the same problem of the family tree. With an aim to resolve the issue, we submitted electoral rolls 1951 and 1965 as additional documents apart from the ones given earlier. Once the doubt was cleared, the district project supervisor asked us not to worry as there were no more issues or doubts. He, including others, had assured us the final list will have our names. But that did not happen,” Ali told NewsClick.
He said a “grave injustice” has been done to him and his family and that their constitutional rights have been “violated”. On being asked what went wrong, he said, “I suspect none of the hearing got updated and therefore we could not make it to the final list. Travelling to NSKs gave us a tough time. We spent quite a lot of money but it has borne no fruit.”
Ali also claimed that almost 66% of the total claims filed at his NSK in Katajhar in Baksa district were excluded.
Asked about his future plan of action, he said, “We will fight it tooth and nail in the tribunal and then courts and also in the street. We along with all those who have been excluded will form an association and launch an agitation against the ‘flawed’ list.”
Also read: Assam NRC Final List: Families Anxious, Worried as D-day Nears
He had been voluntarily engaged in an NRC awareness campaign for years. He was helping people whose names were left out from the draft NRC to file applications under the Claims and Objections process for inclusion of their names. He, along with a group of people, have been travelling to different villages in some of the worst affected districts of Assam, conducting awareness meets, helping people with their documentation as well as filling forms.
He had also been educating people about valid documents and nitty-gritty of the complex process through his YouTube channel.
(With inputs from Shakil Ahmad in Guwahati)