GUWAHATI: There is absolute chaos and panic in scores of Muslim-majority villages of Assam after the authorities of National Register of Citizens (NRC) issued fresh notices to thousands of families asking them to depose before NRC Seva Kendras (NSKs) for the re-verification of their citizenship documents.
These families have already made it to the complete draft of NRC published last year. They were given just 24 hours to 48 hours for their appearance in NSKs which are located in places as far as 400 km away and asked to come with all members of their families.
The development comes just days after the state government had come down heavily on NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela on the high inclusion of names of people in NRC in the Muslim-majority districts including those bordering Bangladesh.
Most of the people receiving the notices belong to poor families. They were affected by the recent floods and many of them are lodged in relief camps. The notices forced them to borrow money, mortgage property or sell off livestock to arrange bus fare to go to the NSKs. The buses are few and they are charging high fares.
At least 24 people were injured when a bus, they were travelling in, met with an accident on the outskirts of Guwahati on Monday night. Fifty-two people from Kamrup district had spent Rs.27000 to hire the bus to go to an NSK in Upper Assam’s Golaghat district.
“We have to go or else we will be left out of the draft NRC. We had to sell off valuables, including jewellery, to arrange money for vehicle fares,” a woman, whose family received the notice, said.
Shalim M Hussain, a Facebook user, said he had hired a car from Guwahati to take his family members to an NSK. He said vehicles were not available on rent in his village falling under Kamrup district.
“When I reached Sontoli at around 6 am, there were very few people on the roads. The tea stalls were closed and I found people standing in front of their houses looking for a vehicle, any vehicle. Every bus, van, truck, mini-truck, poultry van, fish van, electric rickshaw; everything with four wheels is ferrying people out of Sontoli,” he wrote.
Opposition Congress cried foul and sniffed a conspiracy.
“Why didn’t NRC authorities ask the people for appearance in NSKs located nearby and why the government did not arrange buses to ferry them to the NSKs?” asked Congress MLA Rekibuddin Ahmed.
He also asked what made the NRC authorities to conduct the re-verification of documents when Hajela himself recently told the Supreme Court that re-verification covering 27 per cent of the applicants had been completed.
“As people are being harassed and tortured, there should be a judicial probe into it,” Ahmed demanded. Santanu Bharali, a legal advisor to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, said the NRC authorities had not taken the state government into confidence.
“As he (Hajela) fixed the deadline for NRC final draft publication on August 31, people have been compelled to go for appearance in the NSKs on short notice,” Bharali said.