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Final NRC Draft to be released on July 30, Assam witnesses rise in suicides

Citizenship

With the announcement that the second and final National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft will be released on July 30, tension and insecurity have gripped several households in rural as well as urban areas of the state. A sudden rise in the number of suicides in Assam has come into the limelight, the reason behind which has been refused to be stated by the authorities.

However, families and relatives of the deceased have stated that the reason behind such suicides is due to the fear of being enlisted as ‘Doubtful Voter’ (D-Voter) or stateless or foreigner or the fear of being jailed.

Balijan Bibi (45), the wife of Azbahar Ali (52), a resident under Jogighopa Police station of Bongaigaon, committed suicide failing to bear the expenses of her family and legal battles. She was lodged in Goalpara detention center prior to her death. Her husband, who had been a voter since 1985, got himself enlisted as a D-voter, allegedly due to a clerical error in his name (Azhar instead of Azbahar) and was given a Foreigners’ Tribunal notice in 2012.

Although Azbahar had submitted all his documents like Voters’ list since 1985, voters’ ID Card, and NRC of 1951, where his grandparents’ names are mentioned, he got two more notices asking him to prove his citizenship. He was finally declared a foreigner and put behind the bars on June 16, 2016.

The insecurity pertaining to citizenship, which has intensified after the declaration of the dates of the final draft, is ending lives and breaking relationships across the Northeastern state.

A Dhubri man allegedly killed himself after having a fight with his wife, Avala Ray who was given a notice after being dubbed a foreigner.

On 23rd March, a resident of Shatagon Village in Barpeta, Lalson Ali committed suicide. Although he had the Legacy data (papers required to prove ancestry), Voter ID Card and a Permanent Account Number (PAN), he was classified as a D-Voter, and out of fear, the person committed suicide.

The list of people who have succumbed to the insecurities prevailing in Assam over the NRC does not end here.   In many cases, the victims had fallen prey to rumors that they will be sent back to Bangladesh if their names are excluded from the citizen’s registry.

There are serious allegations that the verification authorities are partial and negligent towards their duties and they randomly pick Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims and classify them as D-Voters.

The monumental task of NRC began in 2015 under the previous Congress government, but it is after the Sonowal-led NDA government came to power in Assam, when the NRC  received a push.

The withstanding fear of the people has further increased after NRC co-ordinator Prateek Hajela’s revelation that 50,000 people listed as ‘doubtful’ or declared foreigners would be left off the final draft of the NRC.

It is expected that the final draft of NRC will have an immense impact on the future of the state, however, the government has done little to contain the clamor building across the state.