For many of the excluded, NRC has been a comedy of errors

At a People’s Tribunal in New Delhi, four Assamese Muslims excluded from the NRC share their experience

For many of the excluded, NRC has been a comedy of errors
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Amir Malik

The NRC has been a comedy of errors for many, claimed one of the four Assamese, all Muslims and excluded from the citizenship register, at a People’s Tribunal held at the Indian Society of International Law (ISIL), New Delhi on Saturday.

Quipping that the excluded almost certainly have more documents to prove their citizenship than many of those who figure in the final list, Shakeel Ahmed recalled his own experience. His father had been included in the draft NRC published earlier and recognised as an Indian citizen. But then somebody filed an objection. Enquiries revealed that he was a member of AASU and lived 60 kilometres away.

Now his father finds his name excluded from the list. But ironically or as poetic justice, the person who had objected to the inclusion of Shakeel Ahmed’s father had also erroneously objected to his own mother. And now his mother too has been excluded from the final list.

“Women are the worst affected,” said Masooma Begum. “First, many of them are uneducated and were married at an early age. Only a very few have the School Leaving Certificate (SLC). And the panchayat certificates they produce before the officials are summarily rejected as unacceptable. As a result, they found themselves out of the list.”

In cases of polygamy in which a Muslim is found to have more than one wife, the second, third or the fourth wife never make it to the list. “I have come across many cases where these women were left out,” Masooma said. It could be due to ignorance of Muslim personal law and custom or just spite, she offered by way of explanation.

When NRC’s first list was released, barring her father, none of Masooma’s other family members was included. She was confident that in the final list, she along with her family members would be included because they had all the required documents to prove that they were Indians.

In the final NRC list, when it came out on August 31, Masooma’s name was missing.

“In the list at number one, my father’s name was there, number two carried my mother’s name, number four had my younger sister’s name but my name was missing,” she recalled.

She is educated and knows the rules of the NRC. “If something like this can happen to me, just imagine the plight of those who are illiterate and rarely venture out of home,” said Masooma.

Mizanur Rahman, who resides near the Assam-Bengal border said that Bangladeshi migrants were excluded from the list because Migration certificates were not accepted. Even married women from West Bengal were deprived of NRC because Bengali migration Certificates were also not into consideration.

Sharjan’s name and of 30 others in his small village are also missing from the NRC. “My friends consoled me and asked me not to roam around and talk to too many people. A line from Mia Poetry came to my mind, which says, “This land is mine but I am not on my land.”

“My grandfather was born in 1921. When the first NRC came out in 1951, he was 30, in 1971 he was 51 and he died in 1998. Despite having all the documents, I still am not in the NRC,” he added.

“We have no voice, but, if at all we speak, we are ridiculed and belittled,” said Sharjan.

“Justice is all that we seek,” he added.

The two-day People’s Tribunal has been organised jointly by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, Aman Biradari, Common Cause, National Dalit Movement for Justice, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Satark Nagrik Sangathan, Citizens for Justice and Peace - Delhi Solidarity Group, Swaraj Abhiyaan, Citizens Against Hate and Human Rights Law Network. The tribunal concludes on Sunday.

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