How would you tell another person whether you are a citizen of a country or reside in a particular country? Naturally, you would think of showing your official documents such as voters ID if not that then the next closest thing is your ration card.
However, people don’t usually carry such things daily; hence if you are residing in a country like India, you would produce a national identity card Aadhar or just show the proof of your link with a local bank by producing a debit or a credit card. Well, that is for the people who live in the cities; for those who live in villages and remote areas, this may not be an option.
Such was the case of Jabeda Begum who lives in the remotest corner of Assam around 100 km from Guwahati in Baksa district who was declared a foreigner by the Assam government despite showing proof of 15 legal documents.
To understand her plight at being declared a non-citizen of the country she has been residing in, we must first understand what is National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Assam’s Foreign Tribunal.
Not going into the technicalities and legalities of NRC, it was created to identify the foreign immigrants in Assam that fled from Bangladesh illegally and continue to stay in Assam. To prove your citizenship in Assam, the applicant’s family members should either be in the first list of NRC which was prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971.
The Foreigner’s Tribunals are Quasi-judicial courts which are meant to hear the appeals of those not included in the NRC. Currently, the Assam government has aimed to establish 400 such tribunals to deal with the situation.
Jabeda Begum was declared as a non-citizen of Assam in 2018; she is the only earning member in the family of three with an ailing husband and young daughter to look after. She had submitted land revenue receipt, bank documents and PAN card which the High Court had declared inconclusive proof of her citizenship.
At the tribunal, she had submitted 15 documents including the voter lists of her father, but the tribunal declined any linkage proof with her father. To deal with the legal charges and fees, she had even sold her land also is currently working for just meagre 150 rupees per day on someone else’s land.
This is one such case where the government’s rules threaten the plight of people living in Assam. Though regulations are aimed for the betterment of standard of living but ultimately leads to chaos and unnecessary disturbance in the lives of individuals in question in Assam and threatening their livelihood.
As there are notions that NRC might be implemented nation-wide how are the government going to deal with such issues? How many more such people will suffer?