At a loss for Identity in Assam …

At a loss for Identity in Assam …

Guwahati: The National Register of Citizens is being used to frame people and settle scores. Right now, all over Assam, an exercise is on to identify ‘aliens’ (illegal immigrants from Bangladesh) who may have entered the country over the past few decades. If your name does not feature in the national register of citizens, well, then you simply cannot stay on in Assam.

So, how are these ‘aliens’ identified. Simple. All one has to do is to accuse somebody of being a foreigner, and then the authorities will refer your case to the foreigners’ tribunal.

A report in the local edition of the Telegraph says:

Life handed Shankar Sarkar, 58, a nasty shock last year when he received a notice from the foreigners tribunal asking him to prove his nationality. He is now banking on his former schoolmates and village headman to give testimony in the trial court to prove his nationality in a hearing on July 25.

His case has been taken up by the Human Rights Law Network. The HRLN said the case is among several others where someone only has to accuse another of being a “foreigner” and draw the attention of the authorities to drag the person to a foreigners tribunal.

“Sarkar’s case is quite common. It depends on the discretion of someone to accuse another of being a foreigner. In Sarkar’s case, we suspect it was police because he told us that the local cops (in Fatasil Ambari) asked him for money when he couldn’t submit any document that could prove his residency in Dharamtal village, his native place,” HRLN lawyer Debasmita Ghosh said.

Police commissioner Hiren Nath, however, said, “The police are not involved in NRC. If the man was asked money by local cops as he was unable to provide documents I will look into it.”

Sarkar, who hails from Dharamtal near Nellie, had as a child witnessed his house being burnt down during the Language Agitation that gripped parts of Assam in the early sixties. With all important documents lost in the fire, Sarkar has made a plea in the trial court that his father had migrated from East Pakistan to Assam following religious prosecution. After their house burnt down, Sarkar’s family stayed in a rented house but did not keep the receipts as they never thought they would require evidence.

“The testimonies of his schoolmates and of the village headman will be valid. Besides, he has already made a plea under the Immigration Expulsion Act, 1950,” added Ghosh.

Sarkar, who now resides in a rented house at Fatasil Ambari here and earns his livelihood as a cycle repairman, is hopeful that his four former Assamese schoolmates and the village headman from Dharamtal will testify that he was born in Assam and is of Indian nationality.

“I have no option other than to bank on my friends. The only document I have in my possession is an eviction notice issued by the forest department in 1968. The notice has the name of my father along with the names of 13 other people from the village. In 1977, I came to Guwahati. In the 1986 floods, my school documents and other papers were destroyed. In December 2017, I got a rude shock when I received a letter from the foreigners tribunal, asking me prove to my nationality,” Sarkar said.

He also said he has been voting since 1985. Sarkar had also applied to be enlisted in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) but missed the first draft because of incorrect entry of his grandfather’s name.”If the judgment is in favour of Sarkar, he can bring the judgment copy along with the previous linkage legacy data he had submitted. But that will be only after July 31,” said Ashim Baishya, NRC field level officer at ward number 15.

Recently, the descendants of Assam’s first Deputy Speaker Moulavi Muhammad Amiruddin were served 10 notices by a foreigners tribunal in Morigaon district to prove their citizenship.

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