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Assam: 1.4 lakh ‘Doubtful Voters’- How authentic are the numbers; Is Violence a solution?

July 4, 2017

The Nationality of a section of the population in India is still doubted and as per the Election Commission of India, they have been branded as doubtful citizens and have been categorized as D-voters thereby barring them from casting their votes and having a say in the upcoming elections. In view of this, a 25-yr-old Yakub Ali lost his life in a police firing at Goalpara district in Assam. He was one among hundreds of protesters who were trying to block the National Highway 37 to protest against the alleged harassment of D-voters by the border police and foreigners tribunals.

By Shweta Raj Kanwar

The problem of illegal immigrants is one discussed by all but a solution to the influx is something no body has tried to initiate, and even if they did, no results were born from the same. As many as 100 foreigners’ tribunals, set up by the Supreme Court directive, are reviewing the list of D-voters, who were put in that list by the state government citing lack of proper citizenship credentials and they have been deprived of their right to vote. Many such voters, mostly Bengali speaking Muslims and Hindus of Bangladeshi origin, have been lodged in detention centres across the state.

As per the record stated by The Telegraph, a total of 231657 ‘D’ voters were marked in 1977 which increased to 3.5 lakh in the next revision. There are about 1.4 lakh of them now and each one of them must prove their Indian Citizenship before the foreigner’s tribunals. However, a point to be noted in this regard is- Are the Tribunal’s calculations credible?

There are cases that prove that the ECI was sluggish in interpreting the Nationality of certain people as is evident from a DNA report. A case in point is that of one Abu Taher Ahmed. A letter from the Foreigners’ Tribunal asking him to prove his Indian citizenship had been dispatched to the police station, and Abu was to present documents by August 8.

Abu, 33, who had joined the Assam police in 2008, said he was shocked. “I was born and brought up here. And, so were my father and grandfather,” he told DNA over the phone from South Salmara. He added that he presented his papers at the Foreigner’s Tribunal on June 8, and that he will need to be present on the next hearing on August 8.

Abu says that the names of his grandfather Shohidullah Sheikh and father Maziur Rahman were in the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC). And the 1966 voters’ list had his grandfather’s name. “My father passed the 10th board exams in 1978, and there are school documents proving this. I also have land documents,” said Abu, who was born and grown up in South Salmara.

South Salmara superintendent of police Amrit Bhuyan says when Abu joined the force, there was a verification of his nationality. Abu, however, says there were four rounds of verification. Bhuyan says the case dates back to 2000, when prior to joining the police force in 2008, Abu lived in Guwahati doing odd jobs. In 2000, the voter’s registration put Abu in the D-voters’ (doubtful voters) list. And the summon from the Foreigners’ Tribunal is in connection to the case. “He has the papers, and he just has to show them. I’m sure after this hearing, he will not face much trouble,” said Bhuyan.

Aman Wadud, a lawyer fighting these cases says that most of these cases are marred by arbitrary and shoddy investigations. “The investigating authorities, like the Election Commission of India and the Assam Border police, randomly pick and frame Indian citizens as illegal immigrants and send their cases to the Foreigners Tribunal. More than 80% of these so-called “illegal immigrants” are held Indian by Foreigners Tribunal,” says Wadud.
It may be mentioned that the Tribunal’s mistake is not a lone one, and such cases have emerged from the 100-odd tribunals of the state. In the month of March too, 11 people referred to the Tribunal, were found to be descendants of Moulavi Amiruddin, the 1st Deputy Speaker of Assam Assembly who served between 1937 and 1946.
Coming back to the firing case that took place yesterday claiming one life, All Assam Minority Students Union General Secretary has said that t was a calculated plan of the Goalpara deputy commissioner and the SP to unleash violence on people from the minority community. However, the police verdict is different.
The protesters were trying to block National Highway 37 in protest against the alleged harassment of D (doubtful) voters by the border police and foreigners tribunals. “When the police and CRPF personnel prevented them from blocking the highway, the protesters started pelting stones at them and at passing vehicles. The security personnel had to resort to a lathicharge and fire a few rounds in the air to bring the situation under control,” Goalpara superintendent of police Amitava Sinha said.
Sinha said the protesters were led by advocate Nazrul Islam, who was arrested in February this year for assaulting a member of a foreigners tribunal in Goalpara. “After being recently released on bail, Islam had sought permission for a road blockade but was denied consent. Yet, he and his supporters went ahead with the blockade. We arrested a few of them while they were on their way to the protest venue but some managed to reach the venue and tried to block the highway,” he said.
And political parties have not failed to gain political leverage out of this issue wherein the blame game has begun all over again. The AIUDF demanded a judicial probe and financial compensation for the family of the deceased and for the injured. The party’s president, Badruddin Ajmal, said the situation in the state had turned complex with the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state continuing to neglect issues like update of National Register of Citizens and a solution to the D-voter problem.
As reported by The Wire, videos of protesters arguing with personnel from Assam Police and the CRPF have been circulating on social media, which also showed police tearing off their banner and then resorting to lathi charge without much provocation. The police action dispersed the crowd. However, some local youth, angry at the police action, began to hurl stones at them after sometime.

It may be mentioned that be it the Congress or the BJP at the Centre, the problem of illegal immigrants has never seen a solution. Paying them financial compensation, demanding a judicial probe, after their death in a protest etc. are only temporary ways to avert the situation but the real need of the hour is to frame policies that would render results to solve this problem. Protests, killings, mob violence, political blame-game, allegations will see no end. It is proper policies and solutions that matter the most!

–The writer can be contacted at or 

Video Courtesy: Hussain Ahmed Madani‘s Facebook post

The piece was first published by The North East Today is available here


Racism in India

March 2, 2017

The MP Bezbaruah committee that recommended several cultural, legal and administrative measures to end discrimination of North East people in Delhi and other cities, could not address and recognise the question of race, which seeming arises over and over again in this saga of difference. Prasenjit Biswas and Suraj Gogoi ask, will this be corrected by appropriate reforms? 

racismOccupying a mere eight per cent of  the total land area in India, the seven Northeastern states and its ethnically-diverse people is a “micro-community” within the country.  The anonymity of belonging to a geographical region is itself challenging, as there is no common Northeastern Indian identity. Culturally and ethnically distinctive larger identities such as Nagas, Meiteis, Axomiyas alongside Kuki, Mizo, Khasi, Garo and many other ethnic and non-ethnic communities, including Bengalee Hindus and Muslims comprise a significant diversity that is “largely mismanaged”. The issue is how to manage this diversity at the national level?

Continuous harassment, humiliation and repression in the form of racism, under-representation, misrepresentation, as many scholars have suggested, goes on unabated. Chilling videos of landlords beating up Northeast girls in January in Bengaluru, the rape of another in Delhi’s Green Park area, rescue of young adult girls from traffickers’ network are some of the common malaise faced by an ordinary Northeasterner, as they travel to other parts of the country.

In the late 1960s, Nari Rustomji termed  Northeast India as a “Mongoloid fringe” of the country. Colonial rulers drew lines, Inner and Outer, and reinforced them with unenviable pusillanimity and controlled movement outside the hills. Post-colonial regimes in India continued with either a “leave them alone” or  “mainstreaming”, leaving a lot of loopholes in ensuring genuine recognition of cultural and ethnic specificity across the country.

The politics of misrepresentation went to the extent that in the popular biopic blockbuster Mary Kom, Priyanka Chopra replaced a Meitei actress Bala Hizam or another tribal actress Masochon V Zimik, who did not have the needed prosthetic eyelid that Chopra had to put on to make her look like Mary Kom. It is a complex substitution of a wide eyed Punjabi to turn her into chinki-eyed Mary Kom. This incident highlights how Northeasterners cannot represent themselves without a sanction from dominant identities.

In various media discourses too, Northeasterners are presented in terms of conflict, violence, insurgency, meat-eating and other such stereotypes. Within regional media, hill districts and remote localities are never talked about except in a negative way of presenting violence, insurgency or any other disruptive issues. Hill tribes of Manipur face exclusion, discrimination and arbitrary difference that makes them realise their experience of being treated unfairly.

A recent work of a non-fiction by Nandita Haksar, entitled The Exodus is Not Over: Migrations from the Ruptured Homelands of North-east India brought out how Tangkhul women face everything — death to rape and sexist exploitation in Goa and Delhi. A large number of malls in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, which employ people from the Northeast portray a similar story of a culturally different migrant workforce that have to often bear the brunt of being different-looking with very different food habits. The upmarket restaurants, malls and markets make use of their language skills and other positive features, while they keep facing a discriminatory looking-down by owners, customers and buffs, although there are instances of fellow-feeling and kindness.

What is at issue is the very idea of an Indian face as distinguished from a Mongoloid face along with all its attendant cultural stereotypes, which create a sense of alienation and otherness. For the Northeasterners inventing new forms of socialisation is a constant need to link themselves with “strangers” as employers and neighbours in Indian cities, which is a major challenge. They remain as intruders in other social space of being Indian, as “pastoral keepers” of cultural norms in cities may not give them the connective tissue.
Lin Laishram, who acted alongwith Priyanka Chopra in  Mary Kom stated that in every audition she had to face discrimination. Atim, the chief protagonist in Nandita Haksar’s work sees “some of her Tangkhul workers go out with managers” to get some favour, while she experienced statements like “no job for chinkies” here. Do the ideas of India fail to accommodate the racially-different? As professor Bimol Akoijam, a clinical analyst stated, it is like  “when this ‘racial other’ is positioned as ‘backward’ or ‘tribal’ (anthropological subjects), it produces a judgment that converts the ‘difference’ to being ‘inferior’. This informs the racist attitude towards the people from India’s North-east”.
Akoijam went onto pointing out the need for sensitivity about racism as Article 15 of  the Constitution debars discrimination on the basis of sex, community, religion and race. He also pointed out, albeit for the first time, that race emerges as the major category of discrimination in the context of Northeasterners coming to live in mainland India.

 Indeed, he had the shock of his life when he found a reference in JD(U) Rajya Sabha member Pavan Varma’s book Becoming Indian as “my African friend”. Akoijam sought a correction as he hailed from Manipur, but the author never thought it fit to correct it. Thanks to the racist analogies of misrepresentation, Northeasterners could be anything but Indian, they could be Chinese, Nepalis, Africans and the like.

In matters of food too, for instance, a broccoli is never a part of Assamese cuisine nor is fermented bamboo to Jats. To bring it even closer, akhuni (soya bean)  is not central to most cuisines found in Assam but certainly to the Meiteis and Nagas. Our mental map of landscapes is also imagined through food. Any attempt at exclusion and intolerance towards practice of those elementary cultural practices is a gross violation of human rights and secular understanding of Indian society. A major problematique in this is eating of beef, pork, insect, or dog meat by North-easterners and hill people, which is culturally prohibited.

One remembers Naga supremo Angami Zapu  Phizo shouting at the Governor of Assam on  the occasion of the signing of the 1975 peace accord in Shillong. Phizo remarked, “How can there be peace when one side does not share the food of the other side?”

It is seen at large that the food culture of Indian people are divided on multitude of connotations—value systems, religious beliefs and caste associations. Different kinds of food cultures and habits exist parallely, however, it necessarily doesn’t mean an existence without any conflict. As such ecological and social niches that food from North-east carries is taken with a sense of being exotic. But certainly, it does not constitute as an essential part of Indian food culture of samosa or jeelabi or sabjee.

Students from the Northeast living in Delhi, Bengaluru,  Chennai, and also in other metros, often share a very conflicting relationship with their landlords and neighbours. They often face complains of their food being smelly and stinky. One sees very evidently that food has become an instrument of creating a distinctive other and can often cross that already ambiguous relationship to become violent.

Although public memory is short, one would recall the exodus of Northeasterners from major cities in India. This was in 2012 when violence broke out in Bodoland forcing thousands to leave their  homes and hearths. It almost turned communal where people were killing each other or burning houses—about 77 people lost their lives and 400,000 had to take shelter in relief camps. Even after five years, at least half of them continue to stay put. To this violence, some hate-rumours were spread through social media that people from the mainland were targeted in the Northeast. This led to attacks by some unknown people in various metros in India, triggering panic among students and others who belong to the  North-east. The attacks were in retaliation to the displacement in Bodoland. An estimated 200,000 from various cities returned home. This resulted in restaurants running out of staff, malls with no security guards, airlines and airports with fewer crew members and so on.

This targeting of the people in the cities was the result of bad understanding of geography and it carried strong racial undertones. It was a situation where anyone who looks like a Northeasterner was thought to be a Bodo. If that is not racism and bad geography, what is it? This is the result of absence of the Northeast subject from school textbooks in the mainland. Although, some efforts have been made recently, the Northeast largely remains neglected in school textbooks. Is this not internal orientalism?

The imagination of the Northeast in the minds of most Indians is one of an unknown territory, whose inhabitants are not much known. They are known only if they accept mainstream culture such as Hinduism (in case of Meitei or some Arunachalee tribes) and along with the package, a mainstream language like Hindi. Certainly one does not see an easy way out of the situation.

The MP Bezbaruah Committee that recommended several cultural, legal and administrative measures to end discrimination of Northeast people in Delhi and other cities, could not address and recognise the question of race, which seemingly arises over and over again in this saga of difference.

(Prasenjit Biswas is Vice Chair of BHRPC and Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, NEHU, Shillong and Suraj Gogoi is a researcher in Sociology, National University of Singapore)


The article is first published in the Statesmen and is available here: . It is reposted here verbatim for wider dissemination.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2016, reactions in Assam and the way ahead

October 17, 2016

Burst of immigration hysteria

Prasenjit Biswas


Courtesy The Statesman

A caucus of noted Assam intellectuals representing those concerned about the granting of citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrant Bangladeshi Hindus has expressed concern over the Centre’s bulldozing public opinion, through a parliamentary standing committee, to propose amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955. 

It has noted that, if an estimated three million Bengali Hindus who entered Assam after the 1971 civil war from erstwhile East Pakistan  are granted citizenship, it will jeopardise the very existence of Axomiya as a linguistic community and will  permanently alter Assam’s land holding, employment and demography.

The groups is also concerned that indigenous peoples’ lives and identity will be endangered by further legitimising Bengali Hindu immigrants. Also that this will merely complicate the matter caused by an already alarming presence of Muslims in Assam. From the point of view of the indigenous activists, dominance of  any plainsman over hill communities is looked upon as a marginalising factor.

Writing in the late 1960s, noted social scientist Roderick A. Church pointed out that “separatism” of the tribals in Assam and North-east is a potent factor to destabilise any dominant community’s hold over the state power.

The present Citizenship Amendment Bill controversy raises the fear of the Axomiya and the tribal communities together, albeit in very different ways and thereby adding up to the concerns of land alienation and demographic marginalisation.

What turns out to be a queer outcome of the BJP’s victory in Assam is its pre-poll commitment to grant citizenship to Hindus displaced from former East Pakistan and present Bangladesh due to religious persecution. Indeed, this pre-poll promise won them most of the nearly  6.5 million Bengali Hindu votes, making them and their allies win big in this year’s assembly election.

Prior to the election, the Centre, by a circular from the Union home ministry,  regularised the entry and stay of religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh if they had entered India by 31 December 2014.

Indeed, such a circular, based on relevant provisions of rules and orders made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946, has created jubilation among Bengali Hindus and other Hindu minorities such as Koch Rajbongshis, Hajongs, Moghs, Chakmas and such other late and persecuted refugee migrants, as they see in it a humanitarian response from the government of India in treating them with compassion and fairness.

In continuation to this circular, the Centre has proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955, especially section 6A, that presently limits the grant of citizenship to a cut-off date of 25 March 1971. In its proposal, the Centre suggested the cut-off date up to 31 December 2014, for persecuted religious minorities that include every religious group except Muslims, who migrated to India from neighbouring Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the amendment and inclusion of Hindus and others have made the proposed amendment seem painted with a religious brush that alters the secular basis of citizenship within the Constitution to the basis of religious persecution. One can understand the BJP’s political compulsions to keep its Hindu vote bank consolidated for future election that made them parry important constitutional questions.

Concerns raised in Assam about a possible fallout on land and demography is also not backed up with hard evidence and correct statistical facts. Vani Kanta Boorooah, a social scientist with the University of Ulster, UK, in a richly-documented paper entitled “The Killing Fields of Assam: Myth and Reality of Its Muslim Immigration” published in the Economic and Political Weekly, 26 January 2013, demonstrated with much statistical elan that  “between 1971 and 2011, the net migration into Assam was virtually zero: 730,000 persons entered Assam in the 20 years between 1971 and 1991 (502,000 Muslims and 228,000 non-Muslims) but there was a net outflow of 452,000 between 1991 and 2001 (209,000 Muslims and 243,000 non-Muslims) and a further net outflow of 283,000 between 2001 and 2011 (168,000 Muslims and 115,000 non-Muslims), leaving a net outflow between 1971 and 2011 of just 5,000.”

Imaginary statistics and numbers are regularly floated to build up a picture of native and indigenous population losing land to immigrants, be it Bengali, Hindu or Muslim, and an entire Muslim community is particularly dubbed  “illegal” by a motley combination of ethno-nationalists and indigenous activist groups.

To complicate matters further, there is an existing legal mechanism of identifying “suspected illegal immigrants” by tagging them “doubtful” beside their names in the voters’ list and by subjecting them to a legally tortuous process of proving their bona fides and, in the process, many have died in detention camps.

Retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of India Altamas Kabir once pointed out that suspected “D” voters’  human rights were violated in Assam as they were kept with criminals and were deprived of access to legal assistance. The Hindu legal cell of Assam has filed a petition before the National Human Rights Commission against the Assam government’s policy of keeping suspected foreigners in ordinary jails with common criminals.

The BJP is at an interesting crossroad in dealing with the situation. Its chief spokesman, Himanta Biswa Sarma, now minister in the Assam BJP cabinet, mooted the idea of 1951 as the cut-off date for deciding citizenship in Assam during his election speeches, which apparently garnered a huge chunk of caste Hindu Assamese votes to the BJP combine’s accounts.

Right now he argues that granting citizenship to Bengali Hindus of the post-1971 period will ensure a Hindu majority in Assam, which will be a combine of Assamese Hindu and Bengali Hindu that would keep Assam safe from being turned into a Muslim majority state.

Intellectuals, social activists and civil society in the Brahmaputra valley have found this argument flawed as they feel it is divisive and throws  Assam’s plural society into a vertical division between Hindus and Muslims.

In the Barak Valley, Bengali Hindus expect big bonus from the BJP by granting citizenship to all Bengali Hindus, and by particularly checking their regular harassment by the state administration to prove their citizenship and being often pushed into a detention camp or prison.

Noted civil rights activists Hafiz Rasheed Choudhury, who hails from the Barak Valley and heads the Citizens Rights Protection Committee, sees a double danger in proposing religious identity as the basis for amendment to the  Citizenship Act, 1955, as it will not grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of refugee Hindus but endanger the status of Muslim citizens as “suspects”, or illegal trespassers into India. Citizens, in the Barak Valley, being concerned at this diabolic situation, remain clueless about the fate of the proposed amendment, but they remain divided along religious lines. Large segments of Bengali Hindus still pin their hopes on the BJP to establish the rights of Hindus in India, while they are silent about the plight of Bengali Muslims.

The situation is extremely fluid and uncertain as the parliamentary standing committee is yet to make its stand clear on whether it is ready to grant citizenship to displaced people from neighbouring countries on the basis of religion or whether the matter needs to be viewed in a larger humanitarian perspective that does not discriminate on religious lines. Concerns in the Brahmaputra valley about illegal immigration that is then politicised in the name of religious minorities prevent an easy solution to the controversy over citizenship to persecuted religious minorities.

Multiple political colours and positions attributed to this very important Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, make it extremely relevant to facilitate an end to dilemmas of a democratic and inclusive notion of citizenship that is above the dichotomies of native versus migrant, legal versus illegal, etc, that are the remnants of  the 1980s anti-immigrant agitation.

In this context, some of Assam’s intellectuals hailing the BJP’s coming to power as a victory of Assamese regionalism over Hindutva can be seen as the conceit of self-deception, as much of the Asomiya intellectuals are worried at the prospect of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda of granting only Hindus citizenship at the moment.

It is also ironical that the preservation of local and indigenous languages and culture clashes with a notion of democratic citizenship are seen as a source of crisis in land, employment and livelihood. Seemingly, there is a perception trap that has created a quagmire for all of Assam and its various segments of people, as it is not able to come to terms with the presence of others who are different. This also marks a regressive hardening of linguistic and cultural boundaries that imply greater ethnic and religious distrust and conflict over authenticity, which is not good for a democratic polity based on the principle of peaceful co-existence and communal harmony.

The writer is associate professor at the North Eastern Hill University, Shillong and vice chairperson of Barak Human Rights Protection Committe, Silchar.

Originally published in The Statesman at is availaable at

In the name of protecting one-horn rhinoceros, forest guards in Kaziranga national park in Assam are allegedly killing villagers

February 2, 2016

Report by Danish Raza as published in the Hindustan Times

Ajit Doley, a farmer in Bhokot Sapori village, one of more than 100 fringe hamlets around Assam’s Kaziranga National Park (KNP), was uncomfortable about his son Horen’s friendship with Saleem Ahmed, ranger of the park’s Eastern Agaratoli range.

On June 25, 2014, two days after Horen, an LIC agent and a student at a college in Bokakhat, went missing, his father went to Bokakhat police station to lodge a complaint. He knew that one of Horen’s friends had last seen him with Ahmed in Bokakhat town. At the station, the police showed Ajit pictures of Horen’s corpse. A tall, lean man with sharp features, Ajit gasps in anger and sorrow as he recounts the events. He believes Horen’s friendship with the ranger cost him his life.


Assam, India – Jan 11, 2016: Raino at Bagori village Rang in Assam, India, and January 11, 2016. (Photo by Arun Sharma / Hindustan Times)

Assam’s Kazrianga National Park is famous for one- horn rhinoceros. In addition to being a tourist attraction, it is continuously on the radar of poachers who kill the rhinos for the horn which fetches $300,000 per kilogram in the international market. The horn is considered to be one of the most expensive contraband items in the world.

Records identify Horen (20) as a poacher killed by forest guards during an encounter in the Park. Ahmed was the complainant in the FIR lodged after the encounter. Horen’s body lay unidentified until his family claimed it. According to the family and their neighbours, the encounter was staged. “How come his dead body remained unidentified and we got no intimation regarding his death despite the fact that Ahmed knew him?” Ajit asks.

Horen’s killing follows the pattern of killings in the Park situated on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra river at the foot of the Mikir-Karbi Anglong hills: no eyewitnesses; strange circumstances; no further investigation.

The KNP is home to the world’s largest population of the endangered one horned rhinoceros that is under intense attack from poachers. The poachers are capitalising on the surge in the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China, where it is a status symbol and is also used in medicine. Sadly, it seems that the pressure to show results in the fight against poachers is turning KNP into a human graveyard with forest guards and state police often killing villagers instead of the real poachers.

In 2014, the same year that Horen was killed, the Park witnessed more than 20 fatal shootings at the hands of forest department staff. Many of those who died were locals who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. “Forest staff often take the help of villagers in menial jobs. Others enter the park for forest wood. And still others are kidnapped by members of vigilante groups who are under constant pressure from the forest department to give them leads on poachers,” said Jayanto Kumar Goswami, a lawyer and an activist based in Assam’s Golaghat district.


In their zeal, is the forest department and state police conducting extra judicial killings of local villagers, who may or may not have a criminal background?

According to government records, 134 rhinos have been killed in KNP between 2005 and 2015 for the horn, worth US $ 300,000 per kilogram, touted as one of the most expensive contraband items on earth. Sixty- eight poachers were shown shot dead in encounters in the Park in the same time period. However, circumstances of many of these shootings analysed alongside related legal documents, interviews with forest officials, local reporters and testimonies of families indicate that not all of them were poachers.

Various reports have documented that the Park is under- staffed and has been facing a fund crunch. Almost 20 per cent of positions are vacant in the Park and seven per cent of the deployed staff strength is physically incapable of performing protection duties, according to a report prepared by Park director M K Yadava

Nowhere is the problem more conspicuous than in the admission of the Park authorities that in majority of extra judicial killings in Kaziranga, gang leaders are able to escape and locals become casualties. “They lead from the front. Poachers are based in Nagaland and Manipur need their help as they are well versed with routes. They work as fixers, guides and porters,” said Amrit Bhuyan, Second Commanding Officer with the Assam Forest Protection Force, part of the Anti- Rhino Poaching Task Force.

A P Rout, Additional Director General of Police, Assam, and in-charge of the Task Force said, “Poachers are not from here except local guys, helpers and may be in stray case, a local shooter. Mostly they are facilitators.”

It is just like a border situation. It is comparable to the army on the border. When my man is standing in the 4 degree Celsius right in the dark when you cannot see one metre..there is a rhino lurking, riger lurking..i don’t question. Conservation is pretty tough.

– MK Yadava, Director Kaziranga National Park

report submitted by KNP Director M K Yadava to Gauhati High Court in May 2014 noted that the lower rung teams only get assaulted within the park boundaries, leaving the main organisers of the crime free to regroup, have new recruits, provide training, get new arms and make another attempt at poaching.

Yet, locals many locals such as Doley, Rahul Kutum and Gaoburha Kealing regularly get killed.

Consider the facts confirmed to HT by the forest department and state police, which raise questions about the authenticity of encounters in KNP:

Park authorities and state police could not provide HT with a list of ‘veteran’ or ‘most wanted’ poachers killed in these encounters.

While one would assume that there would be casualties on both the sides, no forest department staff has died in these encounters, confirmed the office of KNP’s divisional forest officer.

Contrary to popular perception that poachers are armed with sophisticated weapons, only 38 rounds of AK series weapons were seized during encounters in last 10 years.

There are documented cases of families of deceased getting FIRs lodged against forest staffers, a July 2010 notification says that prior sanction of the state government is required to prosecute forest officers.

Records show that in majority of cases, post encounter procedure such as filing of charge sheets, reporting these incidents within 48 hours to the NHRC and holding magisterial inquiries within three months are not adhered to by the encountering parties, in contravention of law. Out of 74 rhino poaching cases registered between 2002 and 2012, charge-sheets were filed only in eight cases, noted a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.


The situation in Kaziranga is rich in ironies. It is tempting to believe that if the forest department is serious about law enforcement, the prosecution of offenders facing charges under the Wildlife Act must result in conviction. But records show that encounter killings in Kaziranga outnumbered convictions seventy times in the last five years.

An Assam Forest Protection Force personnel, part of Anti Rhino Protection Task Force, camping in Jakhalabandha. Since the formation of the Task Force in mid- 2014, the forest department, Assam Forest Protection Force and state police have been jointly involved in anti- poaching operations.

Yadava’s report attribute abysmal conviction rate to lack of exchange of information amongst enforcement agencies with regards to wildlife criminals. “It has often been seen that a poacher or a linkman has been arrested but multiple cases pending against them are not known to the arresting agency. Therefore bail is obtained easily as “first timer” who then gets back to doing the same business,” noted the report. “They could not prosecute even a single person for entering the park in an unauthorized manner. At the same time, they killed so many people alleging they were people who entered at night time with the purpose of poaching. Two developments do not match,” said Jayanto Goswami.

Paucity of resources to run the Park and lack of funds to gather intelligence, when seen with incessant fatal shootings offer another contrast. Twenty seven poachers were shown shot dead in 2014, up from seven in 2005, despite the fact that the staff is ill equipped and lacks modern gadgets (officials narrated many instances to this reporter when their .303 rifles or that of their colleagues could not fire); 20 per cent of positions are vacant in the Park; and seven per cent of the deployed staff strength is physically incapable of performing protection duties.


So what exactly is happening in Kaziranga? The most likely scenario seems to be that the pressure on Park authorities has led them to be trigger-happy, killing trespassers and individuals found inside the park at night.

“If there is a failure on our part, we earn flak from international quarters. This is not Assam specific issue,” said ranger Saleem Ahmed, ranger, Ahmed admitted that there have been cases of informers misleading his staff because of personal rivalry. In such cases, at the most they would summon the person. “But it cannot lead to encounter because an innocent person never goes inside the Park,” he said.

Echoed A.P. Rout,“It is a reserved sanctuary. The fellow is not supposed to be there. Night time if somebody is coming, whether he is a wood cutter or poacher, how does someone know?” he said.

M K Yadava said given that almost 70 per cent of people in the fringe villages fall in Below Poverty Line category, there was a need to sensitise them not to help wildlife traders for easy money. “Conservation efforts cannot succeed unless these people are made stakeholders,” said Yadava.

At the same time, he appeared to be proud of the way his forest staff was working in hostile conditions. Yadava maintained that not a single innocent person has been killed during encounters. “They are constantly fighting two enemies viz poachers and wild animals. They are on duty when it is pitch dark and the temperature is freezing. I cannot question their actions. And mind you, poachers do not wear special dresses,” he said.


“Oh, we know his son, why did they have to kill him,” cops at Jakhalabandha police station in Assam’s Nagaon district murmured as Kachu Kealing collected the dead body of his 25 year old son Gaonburha Kealing on the night of December 26, 2013. Villagers claimed that same evening, some farmers saw him on his way to the forest in search of his cattle. Earlier that day, Gaoubhura worked in the field with his father and cooked a meal. When he left home around 10 am and did not return, Kachochan reached the Sikuni Bagh forest camp- where suspected poachers are routinely detained- to be informed that he may check the dead body which arrived at the Jakhalabanda police station hours ago.


Assam, India – Jan 06, 2016: Name: Father of Gaonbura Killing his residence at killing Village, Jakhlabandha in Assam, India, and January 6, 2016. (Photo by Arun Sharma / Hindustan Times)

Photos of Gaonbhura’s dead body, copies of which are with HT, show it riddled with three bullets and sickle wounds jabbed around the abdomen, waist and behind his back.

According to his family and neighbors, Gaonbhura was stunted and was least likely to be involved in any activity related to rhino horn trade.

Kachu Singh Kealing, father of Gaoburha Kealing, a native of Rangaloo Kealing village in Assam’s Nagaon district who got killed during an encounter inside Kaziranga National Park in December 2013. Although the killing created an uproar putting the forest department in a tight spot, it did not amount much.

Goubhura’s killing triggered a furious uproar in the area. Various tribal groups and students’ bodies including the All Assam Tribal Sangha, an umbrella body of different tribal organisations held a roadblock protesting the killing.

Ditumoni Gogoi, secretary, CPI (M-L) of Kaliabor sub division, one of the participants at the protest said, “Many such killings were happening in and around Nagaon at that point of time. In most of the cases, protests remain specific to the village of the deceased. But this one became a rallying point and people of nearby villages also took to streets in solidarity with the family.”

It is a reserved sanctuary. The fellow is not supposed to be there. Night time somebody coming…he is a wood cutter or poacher…how does someone know.

– AP Rout, Additional DGP (STF), Asssam

The Additional Deputy Commissioner of Kaliabor sub division in Nagaon ordered an inquiry and action against officials if found guilty. The Circle Officer provided the family with a sum of Rs 10,000 to perform Gaonbhura’s last rites. The Sub Divisional Officer wrote to the DFO requesting him to look into the possibility of giving job to one of the family members on compassionate grounds.

In response to a complaint filed to the Assam State Human Rights Commission (AHRC) by the family, a fact finding team led by the principle chief conservator of forests, Assam, declared that Gaonbhura was a poacher and was killed by forest guard on duty. But the family claims that the Commission’s fact finding team never consulted or involved them or anyone known to Gaonbhura in the entire enquiry depriving them of their right to a fair hearing.

Forest director told HT that as per his information, Gaonbhura was not innocent but his department was trying to help the family on compassionate grounds.


On June 1, 2010, almost all local dailies in Assam carried on front pages the the news of Rahul Kutum’s killing and the resulting protests. “Hundreds of local people of Silveta area under Bokakhat subdivision of Golaghat district have rocked the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) today in protest against the killing of an innocent youth- Rahul Kutum, by the Kaziranga forest guards, making him a poacher fraudulently,” published The Sentinel.


Assam, India – Jan 11, 2016: Name: Family Members of Rahul Kutum at his residence at Silbheta Village, Golaghat, in Assam, India, and January 11, 2016. (Photo by Arun Sharma / Hindustan Times)

Kutum, a minor, along with three others were shot dead in the Bogpur area of the national park on May 21, 2010. Pictures circulated to media (copies with HT) and Kutum’s post mortem report show his dead body carrying unnatural injury marks. “There were marks indicating that both his hands were tied with rope like material,” said Dhrubajyoti Saha, local reporter with Asomiya Pratidin, who covered the encounter. “It is difficult for me to vouch for anyone’s innocence. Involvement of villagers in wildlife trade cannot be ruled out, but killing people like this cannot be a solution,” he added.

Bhakto Bahadur Thapa, uncle of Rahul Kutum, a minor who was shot dead inside the Kaziranga National Park in May 2010, showing documents related to Kutum’s case. The case was widely reported in local media and many officials from the forest department were named in the FIR lodged by Kutum’s family.

Villagers of Silveta gave a memorandum to Golaghat Deputy Commissioner demanding a fair inquiry into the incident.

Kutum’s uncle Bhakto Bahadur Thapa told HT that an individual named Hariprasad Doley of Agoratoli area had helped the KNP officials to plan the killing. After a complaint was lodged by Kutum’s family, the Bokakhat police arrested Doley under section 302. The FIR also named then DFO and one forester Nazrul Islam. Doley got bail after spending three months in prison.

No action was taken against the forest officials. The incident was reported to AHRC but the case file was closed in February 2012.

The report is reproduced from the Hindustan Times where it carries more pictures and 3 valuable charts showing a comparison between the number of Rhinos and Poachers killed from 2005 to 2015,  Rhino population and Rhino poaching over the years.

The sufferings and satisfaction of the forgotten people of the neglected part of Assam called Barak valley

January 23, 2016

Prasenjit Biswas

SilcharSocial psychologists argue that they have two basic functions — to alter the perception of being “happy” as “satisfied” and to turn the notion of “bad” into “good”. These changes, needless to say, drive individuals and collectives towards believing that the wish is fulfilled. In the case of Assam’s Barak Valley, such is the level of satisfaction at the running, at long last, of the slow-moving passenger train over the hill tracts of the Borail range, from Silchar to Lumding and then to Guwahati. After a wait of nearly two decades, the metre gauge conversion work was completed and the first goods train flagged off on 21 November. Regular passenger services started two weeks ago. Already there is a clamour for more daily services.

Located disadvantageously, the Barak Valley until 1948 was part of erstwhile Sylhet district of Assam. It faced immense difficulty in keeping itself connected. Deliberately neglected, isolated and shabbily represented by an incompetent selfseeking political class, the valley kept treading a lonely path of building up a few institutions.

The broad gauge connection now can improve not just the supply but the demand side of the economy as well. So far this has been inelastic and rigid in the absence of supply chains. Both in terms of transport of goods and services and reduced internal and external transaction, business is bound to look up now. In other words, the broad gauge, as an infrastructural investment by the government, is a right step in the direction of improving both supply and demand sides of Barak Valley’s existing Robinson Crusoe economy.

When economy suffered, a set of traders, allegedly in nexus with officials, funders, suppliers and contractors, kept changing goalposts and causing inconvenience to the aam jantawith regard to simple travel between Silchar and Guwahati. Landlocked Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur were made to suffer because Barak Valley is their only outlet to the outside world. They had to pay higher prices for food and other essential items.

The cost of fuel, education, healthcare and any dream of building a home and marrying off daughters and sisters or going on a pilgrimage or a tour, all very basic to human dignity, eluded the ordinary valley-dwellers. To add insult to injury, came the rhetoric of being called a “pariah in Axom” or a “Bong from Barak”. The residents resisted unto the last this onslaught on culture and language of Barak Valley.

Those returning home from colleges and universities, some often bruised for life and even eliminated for being toppers, suffer middle- class pangs. For manual labourers, returning home without being paid, disappearing without the government being in the least concerned, harassed for being Muslim or Bengali at checkpoints on the borders of Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram, added more strings to this saga of pain and torture. Ironically, Mizoram opposes broad gauge as it feels it is a vehicle of access for those hapless Vais, as outsiders are known in the state.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Amidst all this, quiet flows the Barak. The bus lobby made money, charging and extorting from students, labourers and other travellers. Sending goods became officially and unofficially duty-bearing, as one was forced to pay sales tax, service tax, transport tax, gate tax, goonda tax and all other forms of extortion. Any import to Barak Valley likewise attracted extra payments. At the end of the spectrum, the poor buyer and low-income lot were pushed to slow starvation, while those who enjoyed the spoils led a five- star life. Their property, their buildings crossed permissible limits and banks started obliging them.

On the flip side, since the 1980s, coins and small change were scarce among rickshawpullers, daily wage earners and others and they are virtually left without means. With the coming of the broad gauge all this is bound to change. The traders of Crusoe’s economy have started taking joyrides in the new trains, apparently to ascertain how the new line would affect their business and income. On the inaugural run of the train these traders were said to have mixed with passengers to enjoy the ride. The joy lies in reduced transaction cost for them. This year even during the worst floods the price of onions did not rise beyond Rs 20. They need to rework their strategy of profiteering.

Certainly cement, iron rods, bricks and other building materials, clothes and many such monopoly items could still be an abundant source of black and white profit.

How can a passenger train and a few goods trains ensure great revolutionary transformation? Here comes the rope-trick of turning “bad” into “good”. Railway tunnel numbers seven to 12, falling on the diverted track between Harangajao and Maibong, deviate at 35 degrees from the erstwhile alignment on tectonically-shifting ground and the rainy season serves to relay the conditions of existence of ordinary people in the predictable event of landslides. Nevertheless, the broad-gauge is here and so far so good. Public sentiment prevents people from even speaking of such a possibility

The same company that could not make part of Mahasadak (East-West corridor) between Haflong and Jinam Valley, had been seemingly the main contractor to build tunnel numbers 10, 11 and 12. These tunnels are areas of concern. Here comes the geological reality of Barak Valley being surrounded by hills on three sides. These hills are no doubt more vulnerable, homes to extortionists, and yet they maintain a similar condition of life, the only difference being the Sixth Schedule and the Inner Line Permit that separates the people of Barak Valley from any comparable economic and social support. The valley, therefore, is pushed to the bottom when it comes to business, thanks to both inside masterminds and outside adversaries.

One of the major sources of sustenance of the valley is its 100-odd tea gardens. Starvation deaths, low wages, inadequate rations, no significant healthcare and education, poor maternal health, lack of water and sanitation and a producers’ market of depressed buyers have a multiplier effect in incidences of voodoo, witchhunts and day-night gambling. A brothel at the heart of Silchar since World War II remains a gulag of the trafficked. Recent beef politics, sporadic polarisation games, grabbing agricultural land and a massive culture of speed money, starting from death certificates to electricity connections, logging, violation of the Conservation Act in letter and spirit — all this table talk could be listened to in idle office gossip off a winter evening. Sewage remains chocked , there is no solid waste processing and blocked drains and natural water courses show that the rich are actually very poor.

Being a valley amidst hills, it is like a long forsaken brother whose sisters have forgotten it. The condition of the Shillong-Silchar National Highway (No 6), the entry point to the valley, is in a state of Harappan ruin. One is reminded of how a powerful Central minister inaugurated a tunnel to prevent landslides at Sonapur, while another state minister ensured that the National Highway is no longer maintained by the Border Road Task Force. This single act of removing the BRTF turned the eminent domain into a hunting field of poor roadwork to be dilapidated in no time for the next bonanza. The feast is on at NH 6 and the ordinary people’s route to entry and exit is in the doldrums with of course the hope of broad gauge not betraying the happiness shown by the people. The feast is on through multiple checkgates at Digarkhal and other places with impunity.

An iconic Left member of Parliament, Nurul Huda, who represented Silchar, quietly sold off his home when he could no longer bear with this leaking pipe phenomenon and now that he is no more, people of the valley are left with very little by way of a visionary roadmap. Indeed, the valley has no voice anywhere. This is the social pain that drives the ironically happy people of the valley.

The piece has been first published in the Statesman under the heading of The tragedy of a valley amidst hills.

Dr Prasenjit Biswas is professor of philosophy at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong and Vice Chairman of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee.

কীটনাশক থায়োমেট-এর অপব্যবহারে বিকলাঙ্গ শিশু জন্মাচ্ছে কাছাড়ের ভুবন ভ্যালি চা বাগানে

November 21, 2015

ভুবন ভ্যালি বাগান কর্তৃপক্ষ খেলছে এই ভয়ানক মৃত্যুর খেলা। যার পার্শ্ব প্রতিক্রিয়া স্বরূপই বাগানে ব্যাধিগ্রস্ত শিশু জন্মাচ্ছে বলে শ্রমিকদের সন্দেহ।  লিখেছেন তানিয়া লস্কর ও প্রশান্ত কুমার রায়


Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

কাছাড় জেলার দক্ষিণ প্রান্তের একটি শান্ত স্নিগ্ধ চা বাগান ভুবন ভ্যালি। গত ২০১২ সালে হঠাৎ করে শিরোনামে উঠে আসে এই আপাত অখ্যাত বাগানটি। সংবাদ মতে বাগানটি হঠাৎ করে লক আউট হয়ে যাওয়ার ফলে চা শ্রমিকদের মধ্যে অভাব অনটন বাড়ছে এবং অনাহারে মৃত্যুর ঘটনাও ঘটছে। বেসরকারি সংস্থা বরাক হিউমেন রাইটস কমিটির রিপোর্ট মতে সে বছর অনাহারে এবং এর ফলে উদ্ভুত রোগের ফলে মারা যায় প্রায় ৩০ জন মানুষ। পরে সংস্থার তৎপরতায় ভারতীয় মানবাধিকার কমিশনের হস্তক্ষেপে প্রায় ১৩ জন লোক ক্ষতিপূরণ লাভ করে। এবছর ফের আরেকবার বাগান শ্রমিকদের তাড়া করেছে ক্ষুধা আর অপুষ্টির ভূত। ইতিমধ্যে প্রায় ৪ জন লোক মারা গেছে এবং হাসপাতালে ভর্তি হয়েছে আরো পাঁচজন। এছাড়াও প্রতিদিন বহু লোক নতুন করে অসুস্থ হয়ে পড়ছে।

বাগান শ্রমিকদের মতে গত অক্টোবর মাসের প্রথম সপ্তাহ থেকে হঠাৎ করে বাগান ম্যানেজার ওমপ্রকাশ তিওয়ারিকে পাওয়া যাচ্ছিল না। দুর্গাপুজোর সময় বাগানে বোনাস তলব কিছুই হয়নি। এমনকি শ্রমিকদের বকেয়া পাওনাও অনেক জমেছে।

এমতাবস্থায় শ্রমিকরা মালিকের ওপর আর ভরসা রাখতে পারছেন না। যদিও খবরটি সংবাদপত্রে প্রকাশিত হওয়ার পর চা মজদুর ইউনিয়নের নেতারা, জেলা প্রশাসনের প্রতিনিধিবর্গ তথা রাজনৈতিক নেতারা বাগানে ছুটে গেছেন এবং জেলা প্রশাসনের উদ্যোগে রাষ্ট্রীয় গ্রাম সরোজগার যোজনার অধীনে কাজ শুরু হয়েছে। কিন্তু চেংজুর ডিবিশন এর শ্রমিকদের অভিযোগ, তাদের এলাকায় কাজটি এস্কেলেটর জাতীয় মেশিন লাগিয়ে করানো হচ্ছে এবং শ্রমিকরা কাজ পাচ্ছেন না। এছাড়া বাগান পরিদর্শনে গিয়ে কর্তৃপক্ষের আরো একটি অন্যায় আচরণ নজরে পড়ে। দেখা যায়, বাগানে শারীরিক তথা মানসিক ব্যাধিগ্রস্ত লোকের সংখ্যা প্রচুর।

শ্রমিকদের জিজ্ঞাসাবাদ করলে তারা জানান, বাগান কর্তৃপক্ষ কীটনাশক হিসেবে ‘থায়োমেট’ নামে এক ওষুধ ব্যবহার করে। এই ওষুধটি ব্যবহারের প্রকৃত বিধি হলো, ভূস্তরের কমপক্ষে আঠারো ইঞ্চি গভীরে প্রয়োগ করতে হবে। অথচ ভুবন ভ্যালি বাগানে এটি চারাগাছের ওপর প্রত্যক্ষভাবে ব্যবহার করা হয়। গরু ছাগল ইত্যাদি গৃহপালিত জন্তুর আক্রমণ থেকে চারাগাছকে রক্ষা করতে এই পন্থা অবলম্বন করেছে কর্তৃপক্ষ। কারণ এই ওষুধযুক্ত চারাগাছ খেলে জন্তুজানোয়ারের মৃত্যু অবশ্যম্ভাবী। এই সুযোগেই কর্তৃপক্ষ খেলছে এই ভয়ানক মৃত্যুর খেলা। যার পার্শ্ব প্রতিক্রিয়া স্বরূপই বাগানে ব্যাধিগ্রস্ত শিশু জন্মাচ্ছে বলে শ্রমিকদের সন্দেহ। শ্রমিকরা আরো জানালেন, তারা কর্তৃপক্ষের কাছে এর বিরোধিতাও করেছিলেন। কিন্তু কর্তৃপক্ষ জানায়, তাদের কাছে এই প্রয়োগের পারমিশন আছে, যা টি-বোর্ড থেকে পাওয়া।

বাগানের পরিস্থিতি সামাল দিতে প্রশাসন এবং রাজনৈতিক নেতারা এবার তুলনামূলকভাবে বেশি সক্রিয় হলেও এর কিছু কিছু জরুরি বিষয় রাজনৈতিক ডামাডোলের আড়ালে ঢাকা পরে যাচ্ছে।

প্রথমতঃ বাগানে একশ দিনের কাজ (নরেগা বা মনরেগা) শুরু করে সাময়িকভাবে শ্রমিকদের খাদ্যের অধিকার সুরক্ষিত করা গেলেও তাদের রোজগারের সুরক্ষা কিন্তু দেওয়া হচ্ছে না। ফলে চা শ্রমিকরা মানসিক অবসাদে ভুগছেন।

দ্বিতীয়তঃ একটি বাগানের স্থায়ী মজুরদের খালকাটা, পুকুর খোঁড়ার মতো কাজে লাগিয়ে দেওয়াটা কতটা যুক্তিযুক্ত? এবং এর ফলে অন্যান্য মজুরি শ্রমিকদের রোজগারের যে সমস্যা হচ্ছে তা কী করে সমাধান করা হবে? তাছাড়া বাগানের এই অস্থির অবস্থার ফলে বহু অল্পবয়সী শ্রমিক বাগান ছেড়ে অন্য রাজ্যে পালিয়ে যাচ্ছে।

চতুর্থতঃ বাগানে যে রাসায়নিক প্রদূষণের অভিযোগ উঠেছে, সে বিষয়ে কী পদক্ষেপ নেওয়া হচ্ছে?

এমতাবস্থায় বাগান শ্রমিকরা এক চরম হতাশায় ভুগছেন। প্রতিবছরই একই লড়াই লড়তে হচ্ছে শ্রমিকদেরকে। কর্তৃপক্ষের অবহেলা আর অমানবিক কার্যকলাপের ফলে প্রায় হাজারখানেক পরিবারের ভবিষ্যৎ প্রবল প্রশ্নচিহ্নের মুখে দাঁড়িয়ে আছে।

(প্রতিবেদনটি প্রথম প্রকাশিত হয় সংবাদ মন্থনে।)

প্র্তিবেদক তানিয়া লস্কর গৌহাটি হাইকোর্টের আইনজীবী ও বরাক হিউম্যান রাইটস প্রটেকশন কমিটির আইন বিভাগের সদস্য এবং প্রশান্ত কুমার রায় সমাজকর্মী ও সাংবাদিক।

Over 150,000 families in Assam have been displaced due to floods and erosion but the state does not see any problems

October 5, 2015

Assam’s nowhere people

Amarjyoti Borah

For seven years, Abdur Khan has been calling the makeshift camp, a thatched one room on an embankment, his home. A resident of Assam’s Balimukh village in Morigaon district, he moved out of his village along with his wife and two children. “We were a prosperous farming family with 9.6 hectares (ha) of cultivable land, a power tiller and a house. Today, I work as a daily labourer,” says Khan. The land that Khan owned started to degrade during the floods in 1998. “We never thought that the entire land will be degraded. But the Brahmaputra completely engulfed our land during the 2007 floods,” he says, his voice choked with emotion.

A flood-affected family in Goroimari village in Assam's Kamrup district (Down to Earth)

A flood-affected family in Goroimari village in Assam’s Kamrup district (Down to Earth)

Khan is not alone. State government data shows over 150,000 families have been displaced in the past decade due to soil erosion in the state, and 37,000 of the families have been rendered homeless in the past five years. About 100 families live along with Khan.

With each flood and with every bit of land eroded, new camps are fast cropping up. The state government doesn’t keep record of them as these are not official camps. These people don’t even have basic amenities. “You can call it a life sans any recognition,” says Khan. There are hundreds of such camps across the mighty Brahmaputra and several other rivers in the state.

Currently, the state is facing one of its worst floods in recent decades. Some three million people have been affected in 80 per cent of the state by floods in the last six months. Floods are not new, and land erosion is a recognised problem in the state. Assam loses 8,000 ha of land to rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Barak and their tributaries every year (see ‘Eroded’). The width of river Brahmaputra has increased by up to 15 km at some places due to bank erosion. According to experts, though Assam has always been vulnerable to floods, the Great Earthquake of 1950 led to massive changes fostering erosion. “The river became more unstable after the earthquake and the shifting of channels and erosion became more severe and frequent,” says Parthajyoti Das of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based organisation working on environment.

Chronic erosion

However, in a criminal interpretation of government provisions, the state government refuses to take up rehabilitation of erosion-induced displaced people. By law, flood is recognised as a natural calamity, thus qualifying for relief and rehabilitation. But, the resulting soil erosion is not treated as a calamity.

The government has not set up even a single relief camp till date for the erosion-affected families. The displaced people set up their own camps. A 2014 study, Disaster recovery and resilience: Case study of Assam floods, by Sneha Krishnan, a PhD candidate at University College, London, says government assistance is only limited to immediate relief as long as families are living in state-run flood camps. Such camps are temporary and for those who can come back to homes after the flood recedes. “It is not only the state, even humanitarian agencies were not forthcoming to support or assist—as many considered erosion to be a chronic problem,” says the report.

However, the state government is aware of the ever-expanding unofficial camps. Assam Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman told Down To Earth that there should be around 30,000 makeshift camps in the state where erosion-affected people are staying. “We do not have comprehensive data because the camps have been set up by the people and not by the state government,” he adds. The actual figure could be much higher, say experts. “There are close to 100,000 erosion-affected people in Dhemaji, Morigaon, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts alone,” says Sosi Bordoloi of Women Development Centre, a non-profit based in Guwahati.

Photo from DownToEarth

Photo from DownToEarth

More bad news

This year, the population of the unofficial camps is set to swell due to the current floods. “The flood has been very severe, and several new areas have been flooded,” says Basanta Das, Assam’s water resource minister. “Over 1.6 million people residing in 2,000 villages have been affected this year. More than 226,000 people displaced by floods have been shifted to relief camps across Assam,” says Das.

But, will these people come back to their homes? State officials say several villages have been completely swallowed by the Brahmaputra this year. For example, nothing remains of Mikirgaon and Jotiapur villages in Morigaon district. This means that these people will scavenge every possible vacant land and settle in makeshift shelters. Soon nobody will recognise them.

The 230-odd families who were residing in these two villages have now set up camps on embankments nearby. Mikirgaon resident Purnakanta Basumatary says he has lost everything to the floods. The 56-year-old farmer says he had a big house and a comfortable living. All that remains of his belongings is a car that is parked outside the camp. “I do not know what the future holds for us. All that I had earned in my lifetime has been reduced to nothing,” he says. “We have no other option but to wait here, as we have lost all our land with no government help in sight. The best option for us is to make the embankment our new home,” says 45-year-old Jishu Hazarika, who recently shifted along with his wife and two children.

Relief tremors
The unofficial camps may also soon crumble. Most of these camps are located on embankments constructed to hold back water from rivers. Experts warn that most of these embankments are old and now highly prone to breaches. “There are a total of 449 embankments in Assam covering an area of about 4,350 km. The state water resource department has identified 950 km of these embankments as extremely vulnerable and about 2,390 km embankments as vulnerable to flood and erosion,” says Luit Goswami of Rural Volunteer Centre, a non-profit based in the flood ravaged district of Dhemaji.

Former Assam Water Resource Minister Bharat Chandra Narah says most embankments and other flood protection measures had overshot their effectiveness period. “Most of the embankments along the Brahmaputra and its tributaries were constructed between 1965 and 1995, and they have already crossed their period of effectiveness,” Narah adds. Goswami says the life span of an embankment is not more than 20 years, but most of the embankments in the state are over 45 years old. “The embankments have weakened and are not able to withstand the high thrust of floods,” he says.

Families living in the camps know about the threat, but they say they have nowhere else to go. “In their local history, many embankments have been washed away in the past 20-30 years. In recent years, the embankments could hold for only one or two years. In Morigaon in 2013, the newly-built embankment was breached and villages were inundated. The communities were concerned that the delineation of embankment layout happened without relocation and resettlement plans of the government in place,” says the 2014 report.

Living on hope 
This March, the state government took the first step towards recognising these camps. It declared a special scheme in the chief minister’s name to rehabilitate erosion affected families. “The government has allocated Rs.5 crore in the current year’s budget for the scheme,” says Bhumidhar Barman, Assam’s revenue and disaster management minister. The implementation of the scheme will take time as the first big challenge for the government is to identify the camps. “As per the information received from 15 districts, some landless people affected by erosion are now living in other parts. Some are living on embankments and on roadside, while others are living on leased land,” he says. In these 15 districts, 880 villages eroded completely and 67 villages were eroded partially. The state has to search for these people.

Acknowledging the problem of erosion is the first logical step, say experts. This will enable the state government to start investing for the rehabilitation of the families. The state government has so far failed to utilise its disaster fund. “The Assam government has Rs.1,425.45 crore under the State Disaster Response Fund, which is yet to be utilised,” says Sarbananada Sonowal, Union sports minister and MP from Assam.

The next step, say experts, has to be towards mitigation to reduce erosion. The 2011 Committee for Developing Mitigation Strategies for Brahmaputra River Basin Flood and Erosion Problem, which had experts from Assam and the US, found the key reasons for erosion were “aggradation” (raising of the river bed due to sediment deposition), intense “braiding” and large water discharge. The committee suggested a combination of measures including strategic dredging, protection of erodible bank materials with anchored bulkhead or tie back sheet piles, spurs, toe and bank revetments.

It also suggested improvement of data quality and quantity by extending rain, flow and sediment monitoring network using state-of-the-art equipment and considering physical modelling to study severe and potential scour sites.

Meanwhile, the displaced families continue to live under the fear of eviction. They also live in the hope that their leaders will soon provide them with land for rehabilitation. “Leaders from all political parties visit us before each elections, be it the Lok Sabha, the state Assembly or the Panchayat elections. They pay us Rs.100-500 and assure us that we will get land soon. Most of us are hoping that the leaders will deliver on their promises,” says Rahim Ali, who lives next to Khan in the camp at Balimukh village.
“Till that time, we are on our own.”

(First published in the Down to Earth and is available at

How the NRC updation in Assam threatens to render a large section of Bengali settlers in the state stateless

September 13, 2015

Joydeep Biswas

A riot victim woman whose house was burnt down by the militants takes shelter at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district of Assam. Photo: The Hindu

A riot victim woman whose house was burnt down by the militants takes shelter at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district of Assam. Photo: The Hindu

Very few in mainland India are aware at the moment that a process of citizens’ registration on the basis of racial profiling is under way on the eastern fringe of the country. The national media — both print and electronic — has not cared even to report the ongoing preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), leave alone analysing the legal nuances involved in the action and the possible plight of the ‘denizens’.

This exercise, initiated through a gazette notification dated December 5, 2013 by the Registrar General of India, was initially due to be completed within a time span of three years. But the judgment delivered by a Division Bench of the honourable Supreme Court (Coram JJ, R. Gogoi, R.F. Nariman), dated 17 December 2014, advanced the due date of publication of the final NRC to January 1, 2016. The whole exercise, set off in a selective manner only for the State of Assam, is meant for detection, detention and deportation of the illegal migrants who crossed over to Assam from Bangladesh on or after March 25, 1971.

The vexed issue of infiltration and expulsion of foreigners in Assam, which has dominated the political theatre of the State for over three decades, has got close links with the very history of the subcontinent. Colonial history of the State dates back to 1826 when, under the Treaty of Yandabo, the then geography of what is now called Assam came under the British rule. And the tract was made a part of the Bengal Presidency which, of course, included the erstwhile East Bengal as well.

The first partition of Bengal

In a different turn of events, Cachar, now one of the three districts forming the Barak Valley in southern Assam, was annexed by the Britishers after the fall of the Kachari Kingdom in 1832, and was also made a part of the huge Bengal Presidency. Such arrangements were made much before the first Government of India Act, 1858 through which control over the Indian territories held by the British East India Company was vested in the British queen.

They effectively meant that people of Bengal and of Assam — transcending ethnicity, language and culture — lived within the same administrative jurisdiction and under the same political dispensation.

In 1874, by a whimsical decision of the British government, two districts of East Bengal — Sylhet (along with Cachar) and Goalpara — were separated from the Bengal Presidency, and were joined with Assam to create a new administrative unit which was placed under a Chief Commissioner. This was technically the first Partition of Bengal, a development that unfortunately escaped the attention of the mainstream scholarship.

Much has been written and read about the partition of Bengal in 1905, and its eventual rollback in 1911. However, surprisingly enough, historians of modern India have shown cruel indifference to the cultural knifing of 1874, due to which the Bengalis of Sylhet and Goalpara of the then East Bengal, for no fault of theirs, had to shift their allegiance to a completely different cultural geography.

The colonial power had its own fiscal logic. Sylhet, a revenue-rich district in British India, was tagged with a revenue-deficit Assam to address the administrative purpose of fiscal rationalisation. These two districts thereafter continued to exist inside the administrative boundary of Assam for the remaining length of the colonial rule. In 1947, Sylhet was lost to Pakistan on the basis of the outcome of an allegedly rigged referendum.

The communal carnage that took over the subcontinent resulted in the biggest displacement of people in the recorded history. The humanitarian crisis had its ramifications both on the eastern and the western boundaries of the newly liberated India. But in terms of number, intensity and continuity, impact of the exodus felt on the eastern front far exceeded that on the west. The internal political turmoil, coupled with communal riots first in East Pakistan, and then in Bangladesh, made sure movements across the boundary remained a regular feature even after 1971.

This repeated redrawing of political map of Assam, along with that of the twin valleys of Surma and Barak by the colonial rulers, showing utter disregard to the sentiments of the Assamese and the Bengalis, is causally connected to the emergence of the parochial political patriarchs who assumed power in the Assam in the post-Independence India. Assamese middle-class saw in the British actions of administering Bengali settlement on their own land an evil design of linguistic hegemony. Hence, in the post-colonial Assam, they tried to correct history.

In a bid to retaliate, the Assamese elites, who by then had got a fair share of political power, began to treat Bengali settlers on Assam’s soil as ‘cultural foreigners’. The genesis of the anti-foreigner movement, spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) during 1979-85, thus, dates back to the series of above happenings where politics played mayhem with culture.

The bogey of ‘infiltration’

There was no evidence provided by either the government or the academia about the scale of cross-border movement of people. Despite that, the xenophobic movement launched by the AASU during the early 1980s was successful in convincing the Indian establishment that a ‘marauding infiltration’ by Bangladeshi nationals from across the border was putting the Assamese language and culture in great danger.

The six-year-long violent agitation, which left hundreds dead and thousands traumatised, culminated in the inking of the Assam Accord on August 14-15, 1985. This tripartite memorandum of settlement between the Centre, the Assam government and the AASU leadership was considered ‘historic’ in the Brahmaputra Valley. The Citizenship Act, 1955 was suitably amended by the Parliament to incorporate Section 6(a), bringing in a special provision of citizenship for Assam.

The legislative passage engineered by the Rajiv Gandhi government, which had a brute majority in both the Houses, did not care for the history, geography and anthropology of colonial Assam. The Nellie pogrom of February 18, 1983, in which more than 2,000 Bengali-speaking people, including women and children, were butchered, was conveniently forgotten by the Indian state. That gory incident has never been given enough attention in the media.

Legitimisation of racial violence

Successive governments have not been able to bring the killers to justice. To the contrary, the metamorphosis of AASU into Asom Gana Parishad and its eventual victory in Assembly elections has practically legitimised the racial killings.

The Bengali speaking citizens in Assam now face a new kind of terror, this time, from the Indian government. On the strength of an agreement, the State government is now active in the preparation of the National Register of Citizens. This is aimed at labelling lakhs of Bengali-speaking citizens as ‘illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators’.

The relevant rules and provisions in the statute book, including the Citizenship Act, 1955; the Foreigners Expulsion Act, 1946; the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950; the Foreigners Tribunals Order, 1964; and the Citizenship Rules, 2003 (as amended in 2009 and 2010), have all been very carefully crafted over the years to evict from Assam the Partition victims of erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

The Indian government has decided to upgrade the NRC only for the State of Assam even though, ideally, the exercise should have covered the entire country. The purpose of this official action is not difficult to decipher. The stringent set of conditions attached to the process requires the Bengalis of Assam to prove their Indian citizenship solely on the basis of their or their ancestors’ names appearing on the electoral rolls published up to 25 March 1971 and the NRC of 1951, failing which they would be thrown out of the updated NRC.

To make things complicated for these people, such electoral rolls are found to be both incorrect and incomplete. On the other hand, their Assamese and tribal counterparts would find easy inclusion, by virtue of being the ‘original inhabitants of Assam beyond reasonable doubt’.

The key question that confronts us now is: what would happen to these hapless Bengali settlers? In the absence of any bilateral arrangement between India and Bangladesh, the latter is not ready to take them back. This implies that lakhs of such Indian citizens, who have had their names on the Indian electoral rolls for the past four decades, and who are in possession of Electoral Photo Identity Card, would be rendered stateless. Going by the existing deportation norms and practices, they will just be evicted to the no man’s land on the Indo-Bangla border, that too in the dead of night. It will be a shameful moment for India, a proud signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(Joydeep Biswas is an associate professor of economics in Cachar College, Assam (Central) University.E-mail:

The piece was first published in the Hindu and can be accessed here

NRC fiasco: things you must know about the national register of citizens

July 3, 2015

By Aman Wadud

These days NRC is dominating debate and discussion in Assam. NRC (National Register of Citizens) was first prepared in 1951 based on census of that year. The Supreme Court in a judgment has asked the Centre and the state government to update NRC for Assam in a time bound manner. The NRC will now be updated to include names of those persons or their descendants whose name appear in the NRC, 1951 or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24thMarch,1971 or in any other admissible documents issued up to mid-night of 24th March 1971. These documents together are called legacy Data and included in List A. Another set of document will be required to prove linage with the person whose name appears in pre 24th March 1971 documents/ Legacy Data, these are included in List B.


Challenges before citizens: NRC is huge process touching the lives of entire population of Assam, even new born will also be included in updated NRC. Updation of NRC is more than thirty years old demand. One of the demands of Assam agitation leaders was to update NRC free of any illegal immigrants. Government after government kept deferring it. Even the Assam agitation leaders who formed a political party and was in power for ten years did not update NRC. Finally after Supreme Court’s order the process of updation of NRC has started in Assam.  The Centre, the State government and its institutions should have taken all necessary steps to make the entire process convenient for masses. To the contrary, the NRC updation process has been made inconvenient, cumbersome and utterly confusing. The NRC application form  is a clumsy and complex piece of paper for general citizens.   Till date two people have committed  suicide and more has attempted to end their lives failing to find name of their ancestors in Legacy Data.

Everyone except whose names appears in Legacy data should prove their linkage with the person whose name appears in Legacy Data. There are seven  documents in List B to prove linkage, which are- birth certificate, land documents, board/university certificate,Bank/LIC/PO documents, Circle Officer/GP Secretary Certificate, Electoral roll, ration card and at number eight it is mentioned that any legally acceptable documents  can be submitted to prove linkage. But it is not mentioned anywhere what exactly are these documents which has been termed as legally acceptable document. Although one might argue that documents mentioned in List B are extensive , they forgets that there are lakhs of children from poor families  who doesn’t have birth certificates, and they are too young to get themselves enlisted in voter list. It is not possible for these poor parents to get issued a birth certificate for their grown up children.

A new born gets birth certificate free of cost if issued within 21 days of birth, parents has to pay huge bribe if they want birth certificate for their issues after this period. These children will be left with no documents to prove their relationship with their parents and ancestors. To make things worse even School certificates are not been accepted as valid document to prove linkage. NRC updating authorities definitely did not spare a thought for these children or they would have included Gaon Burah certificate or  certificate provided by schools in List B to prove linkage. There is no explanation why Gaon Burah certificate is not accepted as legally acceptable document. A Gaon Burah or a village headman is a civil post , the office of the deputy commissioner of the district is the appointing authority of a Gaon Burah. Certificate issued by Gaon Burah is also accepted in judicial proceedings, wonder what stopped NRC updating authorities to include Gaon Burah certificate in List B. Lakhs of parents all over the state are having sleepless nights failing to obtain any certificate to prove that their own children are actually their own. Some parents have fallen prey to frauds who are selling fake birth certificates for few hundred rupees. If at all non inclusion of certificate issued by Gaon Burah and school certificates in List B is helping anyone, it is helping these frauds who are selling fake birth certificate to innocent and impoverished parents. If these parents are caught submitting fake birth certificate they might be prosecuted and put behind bar for cheating, thus causing more misery to their existing impoverishment.

Certainly NRC updating authorities could have done away with these hardships that many parents are enduring. Apparently NRC updating authorities has taken a decision to include Gaon Burah certificate in List B , but that decision has not been implemented till this piece is written. With just one month left for the last date for submission of NRC application form , NRC updating authorities is still undecided whether to include Gaon Burah certificate in List B. There could two be reason for this – either NRC updating authorities has mala fide intention or they are supremely incompetent. Either of these is uncalled for and unacceptable. One of the worse affected people of this entire fiasco is Nur Islam. Nur Islam hails from a backward area of Barpeta district, where I met him during one of many NRC awareness meetings. He is father of four children, and no one has birth certificate. When I asked him to get issued birth certificate for his children, his reply made me speechless. Nur Islam says “I somehow makes two ends meet by working as a daily wage laborer, how can I spend thousands of rupees for birth certificates?.” Assam has many such Nur Islam, they are suffering only because of reprehensible attitude of NRC updating authorities. Inclusion of Gaon Burah Certificate and School certificate in List B would have solved problems for lakhs of Nur Islam.

Indian citizens who came to Assam from other state after 24th March,1971: Legacy data has been uploaded for those who were resident of Assam before 24th March, 1971. Those who came from other state of India after 1971 will naturally face problems in applying for NRC. They will have to fill up column 12 of the application form by mentioning the complete address from where they or their ancestors came and provide documents proving the same. There are many impoverished people who came to Assam post 1971 or even after that and settled permanently here. Many never returned to their place of birth and don’t have any connection to the place from where they migrated. One of them is Ismail Siddique, I met him at a NRC awareness meeting. Siddique is 60 years old, he is settled in Baksa district of Assam. Siddique was born in Uttar Pradesh , he eloped with a girl from other religion and came to Assam as a teenager. Ismail Siddique has never returned to his place of birth, he says he don’t even remember the name of his village now. He will fail to provide any documents to prove that he migrated from Uttar Pradesh. Ismail Siddique is certainly not an exception. Will failure to mention name of place from where he migrated and submitting documents to  back the claim  result non inclusion of his name in updated NRC ? Will citizens right be curtailed for people like Ismail Siddique. These apprehensions have turned in to nightmare for people like IsmailSiddique.

There are many who came to Assam from Bihar, they came to Assam for a livelihood and settled here. Many know the place of origin but do not have any documents to prove. Even for a certificate from District administration or Gaon Panchayat they will have travel all the way to Bihar. Some people will be succeed to provide documents but many will fail to get necessary documents from their state of origin.

To add to worries and apprehension NRC authorities doesn’t have any comforting reply for these people. NRC Seva Kendra official are clueless , so are NRC call centre employees. At NRC call centre the standard answer is : people who came to Assam from other state post 24th march 1971 will face problem. This is nothing short of  making mockery of  Fundamental Right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of  India.

Moreover there are large numbers of Assamese who lived in areas which are not parts of Assam now. Like those who lived in the then capital, Shillong and voted there. The names of those people are not found in Legacy Data. Although they have option to submit other admissible documents, but how many have preserved such documents? It goes without saying that they are in fear of getting their name dropped from updated NRC.

Married Women who migrated to other place: A married woman has to submit legacy data of her ancestors and prove linkage with them. She can prove linkage with any legally acceptable documents including certificate of Secretary, Gaon Panchayat countersigned by Circle officer/BDO/Executive magistrate. On the face of it this doesn’t seem to be a problem. But this is huge problem for women who doesn’t have birth certificate or any educational certificate issued by board/ university. As they are married off early their name also doesn’t feature with father’s name in the voter list at parental home. In absence of any other legal documents a married women can get a certificate from Secretary Gaon Panchayat countersigned by Circle Officer/BDO/Executive magistrate. Initially in many areas Circle Officers refused to sign such certificate; it was only after pressure from various organizations that Circle Officers are  putting sign on such certificate. Moreover there was no format of certificate with Secretary, Gaon Panchayat, it was provided after lots of hue and cry.

In the three 6th Schedule Areas of Assam – Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao and Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) , there is no Panchayat. NRC updating authorities should have made alternative arrangements in lieu of Certificate issued by Secretary, Gaon Panchayat, but no arrangements were made. Here too only after several organizations approached NRC authorities and appraised about this serious lapse it authorized Lot Mandal to issue certificate. The way  NRC updating authorities acted it raises several doubts about their intention and left no doubt about its incompetency to handle a process which includes entire population of the state.

Violation of Supreme Court Order: The Supreme Court vide its order dated 16.07.2013 in WP( C) 274/2009 (The case by which Supreme Court ordered to update NRC in a time bound manner) has directed to publish the copies of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to midnight of 24th March 1971 and make it available in all areas of the state up to the village level. The Supreme Court said ,  “If these modalities are to be worked  out,  the  extracts  of  National Register of Citizens of 1951 as well as the  Electoral  Rolls up to the midnight of 24th March, 1971 will have to be  published  and made available in all the areas of the State, up to the Village level.”   But surprisingly only copies of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls of 1965,1966,1970 and 1971 has been published, it is to be noted that in many areas  copies of NRC 1951 has not been made available even though people of those areas have certified copies of NRC 1951. The entire electoral rolls since Independence to 1965 is completely missing. People of villages like  Salakati, 1 No. Bhumki, 2 No. Bhumki, Chautaki Part 1, Chautaki Part 2, Baddapara, Pollapara, Kauniabhasha, Uzanpara, Kauniabhasha Maspara, Kauniabhasha Munshipara, Kauniabhasha Milmilipara, Joraigaon, Kurshakati, Khakrabari, Chitla, Fakiragram, Bhotgaon, Kashipara  etc of  Kokrajhar district  have certified copies of NRC 1951 but it has not been uploaded with Legacy Data code. These are only few villages of one district whose Legacy data of  NRC 1951 has not been uploaded, in 27 districts of Assam there are thousands such villages.

According 6A of the Citizenship Act, amended after Assam Accord,  those who came to Assam on or after 1st day January  1966 but before 25th day of March 1971, should get themselves registered and  will be barred from voting for ten years. There is fear  among people that if they submit electoral rolls of 1966 to 1971 they will be denied voting rights for ten years. Although NRC updating authorities  has published advertisement not to believe in rumours but the fact that NRC application form has different column for  NRC 1951 and different column for  Electoral Roll(s) up to 24th March 1971, the advertisements has not helped in mitigating apprehension of people that their voting rights could be curtailed after updation of NRC.

People has legitimate reason to fear and apprehend that their voting rights could be curtailed. NRC is been updated to solve the problem of  illegal immigration in Assam, this issue has been bread and butter for many chauvinist organizations. They surely will not let this issue die. People apprehend that after updation is completed there could be another round of agitation to deny voting rights for ten years for those who submits electoral rolls  issued between 1stday January  1966 and 25th day of March 1971. Several articles by self styled intellectuals has  appeared in major News paper stating how names of illegal immigrants has made its way in to Legacy Data. Although it is virtually impossible but such irrational views are gaining popularity among those who don’t want to believe in reality.

Sheer lack of uniformity among NRC Seva Kendra’s and authorities: No two Seva Kendra employees or call centre employees speak in same language. Even higher officials like Deputy Commissioner and Circle officers very often has different answer for similar queries. It would be unfair to blame these officials who are not decision making body. The blame solely lies on the NRC updating authorities and Register General of India.

Apparently a year ago a Handbook for Updation of NRC, Assam on the line of Manual of Instructions issued by the Election Commission has  been prepared by the State Government and sent to the Registrar General of India (RGI) for approval. This Handbook gives detailed practical steps to be taken by various officials involved in NRC Updating work and elaborates on the detailed workflow and operating procedure, provisions for training and monitoring and supervision, media and publicity activities etc.

This handbook is yet to see light of the day. Last date for submission of NRC application forms is just a month away and public has no idea about NRC handbook. In the name  of NRC awareness, advertisement with very limited information is published in news papers. Very lately audio visuals promos has been launched. NRC Seva Kendra also provide couple of pages of printed materials which bore instructions on how to fill the complex application form. No one knows why information are so limited, one wonders why NRC updating authorities are working in such secrecy that even basic information on technicalities are difficult to find.

In spite of such lackluster preparedness, myopic style of working and innumerable loopholes in the process of updating NRC , the general masses specially those Indian citizens who are often abused as illegal immigrants are leaving no stone unturned to make the process of updating NRC a successful one. Their only hope is that after NRC is updated politics around the issue of illegal immigration might come to an end. But will the vested interested groups, from whom the issue of illegal immigration is bread and butter allow the issue to die?

The author is a Lawyer based in Guwahati. He tweets @AmanWadud

(First published in India Resists and available at

Supreme Court directives regarding arrest of accused by police for offences punishable with seven years imprisonment or less

July 3, 2015
Supreme Court Guidelines regarding arrests of the accused by the police in cases punishable with 7 years imprisonment or less issued Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar and Another (Criminal Appeal No. 1277 of 2014):
1.All the State Governments to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down above flowing from Section 41Cr.PC;
2. All police officers be provided with a check list containing specified sub- clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii);
3. The police officer shall forward the check list duly filed and furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest, while forwarding/producing the accused before the Magistrate for further detention;
4. The Magistrate while authorising detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer in terms aforesaid and only after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorise detention;
5. The decision not to arrest an accused, be forwarded to the Magistrate within two weeks from the date of the institution of the case with a copy to the Magistrate which may be extended by the Superintendent of police of the district for the reasons to be recorded in writing;
6. Notice of appearance in terms of Section 41A of Cr.PC be served on the accused within two weeks from the date of institution of the case, which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police of the District for the reasons to be recorded in writing;
7. Failure to comply with the directions aforesaid shall apart from rendering the police officers concerned liable for departmental action, they shall also be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted before High Court having territorial jurisdiction.
8. Authorising detention without recording reasons as aforesaid by the judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court.
9. We hasten to add that the directions aforesaid shall not only apply to the cases under Section 498-A of the I.P.C. or Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the case in hand, but also such cases where offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years; whether with or without fine.
10. We direct that a copy of this judgment be forwarded to the Chief Secretaries as also the Director Generals of Police of all the State Governments and the Union Territories and the Registrar General of all the High Courts for onward transmission and ensuring its compliance.