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Intellectuals' body bats for panchayat documents

 From a Correspondent

New Delhi, Nov 13: Warning of a “possible conflict” in Assam ahead of draft NRC publication, Assam-based intellectuals on Monday pushed for panchayat certificates to be treated as a valid linkage document for inclusion in NRC.
“The name of the people, particularly married women, who deposited legal panchayat documents as supporting documents for the purpose of linkage, should be included in NRC,” a resolution adopted after a day-long convention in New Delhi by intellectuals said.
Organised by Delhi Action Committee for Assam (a civil society group), the convention on ‘Current Political Impasse in Assam: Updating the National Register of Citizens and the Question of Citizenship’ was attended by noted intellectuals including Dr Hiren Gohain, Dr Apurba Barua, Haider Hussain, Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury, Abdul Mannan, among many others.
The resolution was also supported by the CPI(M). Senior leader of the Left party, Sitaram Yechury said that panchayat documents should be accepted as legal documents.
“The NRC should be published after including all the people who have panchayat certificates. We oppose divide and rule policy for mere political mileage, and in case of Assam our stand is clear. The draft NRC should be published by December 31, as suggested by the Supreme Court,” said Yechury.
The Supreme Court is presently hearing the plea on panchayat certificate issue. According to government statistics, more than 47 lakh people in Assam have used panachayat certificates as linkage documents. 
However, State NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela had recently informed the apex court that after proper verification, it was found that 17.4 lakh such applicants were “original inhabitants”. The verification of panchayat documents of the remaining 29 lakh are yet to be done, he had said.
“It’s a critical situation… 29 lakh is a huge number. Injustice will be meted against them if we don’t include their names in NRC. They are our brothers and sisters,” said Dr Hiren Gohain.
The convention also discussed at length the issue of ‘Original Inhabitants’. Neither is there any definition of the term Original Inhabitants of Assam in the Citizenship Act of 1955 nor have any constitutional authorities defined it. The convention observed that communal and divisive forces have become active over the issue of Original Inhabitants. “If as a result of this, the environment of peace, law and order and unity among the communities of the State are disturbed, the entire process of updating NRC might become uncertain,” the resolution said.  
Chief of Jamiat ulema Hind, Maulana Asad Madani said if the people having panchayat certificates are not included in NRC, “it will be an injustice”. “More than 8 lakh Rohingyas in Myanmar do not have voting right. If the same situation arises in Assam, the State will turn into another Myanmar!” Madani cautioned.