Posts Tagged ‘Disenfranchisement’

UN questions ‘statelessness and disenfranchisement’ of ‘minority groups’ in Assam

September 26, 2018

Special Rapporteur’s report to UNGA highlights plight of Bengali Muslims

UN-Human-Rights-Feature-Image

The UN Special Rapporteur has once again raised the issue of possible statelessness of millions of people in Assam in wake of the exclusion of their names from the National Register of Citizens (NRC). This is part of a report titled Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that was presented before the UN General Assembly.

The 22 page report condemns “nationalist populism that advances exclusionary or repressive practices” and addresses “ascendant nationalist populist ideologies and strategies that pose a sobering threat to racial equality by fueling discrimination.”

Over 4 million people have been left out of the NRC final draft! Most of them belong to socio-economically backward communities and live in rural areas. Many of them are women and children!

On the subject of the exclusion of minorities from the NRC in Assam, the report says,

Nationalist populist parties in other places have implemented administrative and other rules leading to the exclusion of minority groups from official citizen registries on the basis of claims that they are irregular migrants, notwithstanding evidence showing that they are entitled to citizenship. This in turn has led to statelessness, disenfranchisement and increased vulnerability to discrimination, including the denial of basic rights and access to public services such as health and education.

In May 2018, the Special Rapporteur addressed a letter to the Government of India concerning the updating of the National Register of Citizens, a process governed by local authorities in the state of Assam. The letter drew attention to the heightened concerns of the Bengali Muslim minority, who have historically been portrayed as foreigners despite having lived in India for generations, even preceding the colonial era. Since 1997, the Election Commission of India has arbitrarily identified a large number of Bengali people as so – called “doubtful or disputed voters”, resulting in their further disenfranchisement and the loss of entitlements to social protection as Indian citizens.

While many have affirmed that the updating process is generally committed to retaining Indian citizens on the National Register of Citizens, concerned parties fear that local authorities in Assam, who are deemed to be particularly hostile towards Muslims and people of Bengali descent, may manipulate the verification system in an attempt to exclude many genuine Indian citizens from the updated Register.”

The entire report may be read here.

This is the second time the UN has taken cognizance of the humanitarian crisis in Assam. In May 2018, in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, four UN Special Rapporteurs had said,

It is alleged that the Tribunals have been declaring large numbers of Bengali Muslims in Assam as foreigners, resulting in statelessness and risk of detention. Finally, it is alleged that the potential discriminatory effects of the updated NRC should be seen in light of the history of discrimination and violence faced by Muslims of Bengali origin due to their status as ethnic, religious and linguistic minority and their perceived foreignness. Although the Bengali origin Muslims in Assam descend from peasant workers brought from the former Bengal and East Bengal starting in the 19th century under colonial rule, they have long been portrayed as irregular migrants. As a result of this rhetoric, Bengali Muslims have historically been the target of various human rights violations, including forced displacement, arbitrary expulsions and killings.”

In light of this, it is clear that the NRC issue is under the UN scanner and that given the international scrutiny it will not be easy for divisive forces to function with impunity much longer.

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(The story was first published in CJP and is available at https://cjp.org.in/un-questions-statelessness-and-disenfranchisement-of-minority-groups-in-assam/, this is only a reproduction.)

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CJP Urgent Appeal: Stop Move to Make Assamese Muslims Homeless & Stateless Sign our Petition NOW!

April 26, 2018

(BHRPC forwards this Citizens for Justice and Peace petition to protect bonafide Indian citizens from enforced statelessness)

A humanitarian crisis is underway in Assam as you read this. The National Register for Citizens (NRC), a record of ‘legitimate’ Indian citizens living in Assam, is being updated for the first time since 1951. The ostensible objective is to weed out ‘Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’. However, the numbers tell a chilling story… one of a conspiracy of ‘othering’ and exclusion.

NRC Appeal

Representational image by CJP

3.29 crore people from 68.27 lakh families in Assam have submitted over 6.5 crore documents with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to prove their Indian citizenship. But the NRC recently published a list of only 1.9 crores as legal citizens.

A huge number of 1.39 crore Assamese, almost all Muslim, are under threat of having their legitimate citizenship revoked. CJP believes this is discriminatory. Join us and raise your voice against this injustice. Sign our Petition NOW!

  • We demand an immediate halt to this anti-constitutional and potentially polarizing move.
  • We demand an end to this attempt to brand all Muslims as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
  • We demand that corrupt local officials are NOT empowered with coercive powers to unilaterally decide fates of entire families.
  • We demand a stop to dividing Assam for narrow political gains.

Raise your voice against this now. Sign our petition.

The appeal was published on CJP website and reproduced here for wider dissemination.

Assam: NRC process creates racial and political categories of suspect and isolates them for penal retribution

March 27, 2018
People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017 (Photo: thehindiu.com)

An unintended consequence of the process of NRC updation in terms of racial othering and profiling led to severe social conditions. Suicide of Hanif Khan and Bijit Sen, two cases that point to helplessness of ordinary citizens before this procedure of NRC updation in which right to legal redress is taken away by creating a stressful victimology. Hanif Khan, as revealed by his wife believed that he would be beaten up black and blue by state forces, as he thought that his name would not figure in updated NRC. If this is the perception created among linguistic and religious minorities by a process which is supposed to uphold constitutional values, the task of a democratic state has to be much more sensitive. Bijit Sen’s helplessness and anomie combined with his lack of income to create mortal fear, which cannot be downplayed as a mere psychotic response of the victim. Indeed victim’s testimony tell us volumes about the kind of agony and anxiety created by the uncertainty involved in this scrutiny and determination of citizenship in Assam.

By Prasenjit Biswas*

Although the updation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is based on directives of a two member bench of the Supreme Court, yet method deployed for verification by authorities are quite novel and unheard of. Does anyone in rest of the country know about “legacy data” and “family tree”? Indeed Assam specific provisions made in The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of Identity cards) Rule, 2003 under rule 4A that creates unheard of categories like ‘original inhabitant’(under clause 3.3) and ‘parental linkage’ (under clause 4.4) to verify the antecedents of an applicant for inclusion in the updation process. The entire burden of proof is shifted to the applicant in case of any doubt, while an administrative memo issued by home ministry of government of India (GoI) in 2015 asked for confiscation of various documents collected through valid means from such suspected category of individual and people. Although GoI instructions are meant for entire India, yet in case of Assam, it has negative ramifications and causes harassment for the so called suspects. Can suspicion be the basis of jurisprudence and on that basis the status of an innocent be altered as suspected guilty?

One may be curious to know the ideas behind ‘legacy data’ and ‘family tree’. Legacy data was published by NRC authority of Assam giving a code number to all the names available in 1951 census document as well as in electoral rolls upto 1971. The applicant has to refer to such names to establish their antecedent. The matter is more complex than what it reads here. Much of electoral rolls since 1952 are not available, as Assam prior to 1971 included United Khasi and Jaintia Hills (now Meghalaya), Naga Hills, Mizo hills and those electoral rolls are never found. Indeed 1951 census was so incomplete that many districts and many of the places do not have any mention therein. Many places mentioned in 1951 census do not exist anymore because of unstable geology and natural calamities. As far as ‘family tree’ is concerned, the NRC authorities have deployed such a concept to weed out fake legacy claims in cases where familywise unrelated people referred to legacy of the same ancestors. The procedure assumes that the validity of an individual’s claim to citizenship lies in genuineness of his/her belonging to a same line of descent from a common ancestor. But the problem is that families get dispersed, members of same family get separated and live separately in different contexts and hence all of them shall have to be forced to accept each other as members of the same family. Separated, estranged, divorced and distantiated in time and space members of once upon a time family are now sent legal notices to testify each other’s claim of common belonging, all because of shared legacy data of common ancestors. If Citizenship Act, 1955 would have stated such a procedure, it could have been deployed in the whole country and then probably Assam specific application of such an invented procedure could have had a reasonable legitimacy.

This takes us back to a little bit of history of independent India’s extremely ingenuous story of adult franchise and preparation of electoral rolls. Ornit Sahni’s (Faculty at University of Haifa, Israel) fascinating book entitled, “how india became democratic: citizenship and making of the universal franchise”(2018) recorded with due diligence that transition to adult franchise had an Assam specific obstacle in registration of partition refugees leading to historic declaration by BN Rau, advisor to Constituent Assembly of India that all refugees have to be registered on mere intent of staying at a place and their names be included in the electoral roll of the place. Against this, many civil society bodies of Assam wrote to Constituent Assembly asking for exclusion of those people who are not born in Assam causing concern among victims of partition from being excluded from citizenship of India. Needless to say that such contestation did not arise in case of refugees from West Pakistan in due process of registration and enfranchisement! This bit of history tells us that the newly independent state of India was sensitive enough to recognize humanitarian concerns post partition of India and the same continued through Indira-Mujib agreement, Assam Accord and the latest GoI order granting residency to displaced refugees in India who came from neighbouring countries due to religious persecution and other forms of civil and political disturbances. Only little difficulty was that the latest GoI ordinance excluded persecuted Muslims, by going against the spirit of secularism and nondiscrimination on the basis of religion or any other such social categories. What happened to many Non-Muslim detainees who are languishing in various detention camps, post-2015 is a matter of grave concern as the GoI ordinance is violated with contempt in many fresh cases of those who are pushed to the detention camps. The size and number of detainees in such detention camps are on the rise, while many are able to prove themselves to be genuine Indian citizens despite initial arbitrary proceedings against them.

In such a context of uncertainty, certain organizations led by ex-insurgents demanded that land rights be limited to indigenous communities excluding tea tribes, who have been there in Assam prior to 1826 Yandabu pact with the Governor of Burma. Certain other organizations are asking for dividing Assam and creation of Union Territory. The atmosphere is dominated by legal procedures of an uncertain kind and suspicion between communities asserting their homeland claims. In Bodoland autonomous areas, there is already a ban imposed on owning land on non-Bodos and the picture is getting murkier as large number of people are waiting to be stateless, disenfranchised and deprived of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Indian Constitution.

The constitutional right to citizenship, which is subject to fulfillment of specific conditions allows an escape route for those who are noncitizens. They are guaranteed right to life, which includes right to livelihood with only a restriction on participation in electoral process but gives an expansive definition of personhood based on human dignity and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment are given a go by in such a situation. Recent circulars from ministry of home to states of the union asking for restrictions on movement of those who are declared foreigners and those who are suspected makes for a police controlled regime of rights.

Added to this, a process of deportation by force across the border in no man’s zone or restriction of fundamental rights of freedom of movement to residents of an enclave by security forces is a larger ramification of a ‘state of exception’ in the making. As if along with checkpoints, there are racial and political categories of suspect and a process of isolating them for penal retribution by wielding new forms of administrative powers. Does this gel with a vision of equality before law and equal citizenship, as the matter is not just a matter of a particular state but for the whole of India?

The unintended consequence of this process of NRC updation in terms of racial othering and profiling led to severe social conditions. Suicide of Hanif Khan and Bijit Sen, two cases that point to helplessness of ordinary citizens before this procedure of NRC updation in which right to legal redress is taken away by creating a stressful victimology. Hanif Khan, as revealed by his wife believed that he would be beaten up black and blue by state forces, as he thought that his name will not figure in updated NRC. If this is the perception created among linguistic and religious minorities by a process which is supposed to uphold constitutional values, the task of a democratic state has to be much more sensitive. Bijit Sen’s helplessness and anomie combined with his lack of income to create mortal fear, which cannot be downplayed as a mere psychotic response of the victim. Indeed victim’s testimony tell us volumes about the kind of agony and anxiety created by the uncertainty involved in this scrutiny and determination of citizenship in Assam.

Hanif Khan

Hanif Khan (Photo: The Guardian)

The diversity of India’s citizens in terms of multicultural and multireligious background of peoples, which still creates confusing identities cannot be legally reduced to legacy data and family tree, as the basic spirit of inclusion accepted by constituent assembly in terms of those who are born in undivided India and their descendents has to be upheld in all cases.

*Prasenjit Biswas is a human rights defender and a professional philosopher based in Shillong.

An edited version of the article was first published in the Statesman on 26 March 2018.

Insiders, Outsiders and Improper Legalese: Test of Citizenship and ‘Foreigners’ in Assam

January 18, 2018

Prasenjit Biswas

A large number of Indian citizens who voted and elected governments in Assam as well as the central legislature are subjected to a process of verification of their citizenship documents. Now after verification, if a large number is rendered disenfranchised and stateless, the legal implication is that peoples’ representatives who are elected are elected by illegal electorate. So natural justice demands that these elected representatives cannot hold offices legitimately in case the electorate is found to be ‘foreigners’ and not citizens of India! 

nrc

NRC Logo

The first draft of National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) published in the midnight of 1st January, 2018 created more confusions than it resolved. It generated a discourse of Othering and exposed the exceptionalist and exemptional nature of the law-making in the context of Assam. The Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2003 concerning registration of citizens and issuance of identity cards under section 18 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 created an exception in case of Assam by adding a Schedule 4A under which updation of 1951 National Register of Citizens is presently carried out. No other state of the country follows rules laid out in Schedule 4A except Assam. The first draft of updation is now published that called for serious reflection on this whole legal process conducted under the supervision of two-judges bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi of the Supreme Court of India.

These special provisions inserted at various stages to the mother Act of 1955 on the ground leads to ‘profiling’ of people in terms of their religious and linguistic identities. Such profiling has a political angle. People who came to Assam until March 24th, 1971 due to referendum and partition of Assam as also due to separation of certain territories such as Khasi and Jaintia hills, Mizo hills etc. from Assam are somehow either accommodated or they have to prove their citizenship once again. Overall, the special provisions Schedule 4A are based on assumptions like ‘original inhabitants’ of Assam, which smacks of an unfounded category within the very idea of citizenship. The nondiscriminatory and equality based notions of citizenship enshrined in the Constitution of India of citizenship of “persons” as enshrined under fundamental rights and the rules framed in 2003 do not quite gel with each other. Special proviso 4A further undermines persons belonging to linguistic and religious minorities, as they are subjected to suspicion and arbitrary process of proving their citizenship by twisting basic presuppositions and principles of “equality before law” that have guided framing of the Indian Constitution.

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017 (Photo: thehindiu.com)

Especially the procedure for verification of documents under the overall execution of the NRC coordinator seems to be a difficult procedure. The documents are sent to issuing authority for verification. There are interesting legal issues here- for how many years an issuing authority is supposed to preserve a copy of the original document issued by them to a client  and whether the issuing authority is legally obligated to re-verify a document at the call of another office such as NRC department. Without taking into account these issues, documents are sent to the issuing authorities. The outcome is that large amount of documents remained unverified and the reason given is that records are not available and manpower for verification exercise too is not readily available with various State and Central governments. Now those whose records remain unverified, they will be subjected to arbitrary administrative hassles, especially when various ethnic bodies are suspect and target those who minority groups as “Bangaladeshis” and who are going to be excluded from updated list.

This is a slippery slope situation that makes the circumstances very grave and punishing for no fault of the victims of this systemic exclusion. It is assumed that those names that are not included are not genuine Indian citizens and god forbid, any genuine Indian citizens excluded due to this cumbersome verification process will have to struggle a long way to get back the status of being a citizen. Such cases will be referred to Foreigners’ Tribunal and after a cumbersome legal process one may be able to get a legal redress. Now politicians take hold of the slippery situation. They have started asserting that no genuine Indian citizen will be excluded without addressing the issue of procedure. That the applicant remains as the possible sufferer at the other end of this process of verification is no one’s concern. Instead, Assam’s former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said indigenous people won’t have to bother about such a situation, meaning non-indigenous religious and linguistic minorities only will have to be concerned if they face any such exclusion from updation. Another much celebrated democratic voice from Assam Akhil Gogoi has asserted in Delhi that two crores of Bangladeshis have to be deported from Assam. Noted intellectual Homen Borgohain asserted that certain parts of Assam such a Barak valley, Dhubri and lower Assam have only been parts of Assam’s geography but never a part of History. This is how linguistic and cultural and religious minorities are purged from imagination of Assam in which NRC process adds to the existential fear and agony of being reduced to rightless noncitizen. Recent assertion by Assam Chief Minister that those whose names will not figure in updated NRC, their fundamental rights will be taken away and they will be given only the right to food, shelter and life magnified this existential fear among those who are Indian citizens and whose names may not figure due to an inefficient procedure.

What Homen Borgohain has argued opens up a Pandora’s box. His concern is that it is because of the Bengali speakers of Barak valley and certain other lower Assam areas that Assamese is rendered as the language of minority in Assam. So he argued that Barak valley should be separated from Assam to regain “only the Brahmaputra valley as the land of Axomiya speakers”. It is widely believed in this context that the targets for disenfranchisement and de-citizenization are linguistic and religious minorities whose fears are compounded by a long drawn process of verification without stating any reason why certain documents are found incorrect or kept pending. Much needed transparency and statement of proper reasons for pendency to applicants who assume themselves to be genuine Indian citizens is not shown much respect. Rather the process resorted to arbitrarily drawn procedures by the Executive which are unfriendly and not supported by existing legal framework.

The larger point is that large number of Indian citizens who voted and elected governments in Assam as well as to the central legislature are subjected to this process of verification. Now after verification, a large number is rendered disenfranchised and stateless, the legal implication is that peoples’ representative who are elected are elected by illegal electorate. So natural justice demands that these elected representatives cannot hold offices legitimately in case the electorate is found to be ‘foreigners’ and not citizen of India! While the State NRC coordinator stated before the Supreme Court that in the first draft, the office has verified 2.38 crores cases of roughly 3.40 crores applicants, the draft incorporated only 1. 9 crores of people, keeping out 1.4 crores. This indicates as if a large section within this left over people may prove to be ‘foreigners’ and later they are to be rendered stateless. Before the second draft of the NRC, the coordinator stated that children who are born after 2003, their names will be included provided both their parents’ names and not one of them find a place in the NRC. The basic principle that those who are born in India will be Indian citizens is in the way of getting amended in an extra-legal manner by the Executive. This is legally implausible as the bottomline condition for children to be an Indian citizen is that one of the parents is Indian and the other is not an illegal migrant. A large number of post-2003 children now face this new conundrum. In the first draft, those whose names are part of “legacy data”, available right in the NRC database are excluded, citing that their verification is pending. No one is able to understand how the verification is conducted. Updates in the forms of press statements are yet to be substantiated by disclosure of full information to the applicant in the website.

The situation created its ripple effect in Bengal with Mamata Banerjee pronouncing that Bengal will give shelter to people who would suffer due to such a cumbersome process. She created storm in the tea cup by her repeated pronouncements to this effect. Political opinion in Assam got sharply divided on her protestation.

Overall, the situation needs able handling and skillful mediation to complete the NRC process in a just and fair manner.


Prasenjit Biswas chairs Barak Human Rights’ Protection Committee and is a political analyst.

A version of article was published in The Statesman under the title of “Insiders, Outsiders and Improper Legalese on 15 January 2018.

Assam NRC process drives citizens to death: Case of Hanif Khan

January 15, 2018

This new year a sad news has shaken the people of Barak Valley, the southern part of North East Indian state of Assam comprising of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts. Mr Hanif Khan, young man of about 37 years of age, committed suicide hours after first part of the draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is in the process of being updated in Assam was published at midnight on 31 December 2017. The draft did not have his name as he feared. He was terrified that he lost his citizenship and as a result he would be sent to jail and would be subjected to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment.  All the local vernacular media as well as a section of the national media reported the incident. There is an atmosphere of fear and terror.

After learning from the media reports, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) decided to visit the family and gather first hand information of the incident and accordingly a team led by Dr Prasenjit Biswas  and comprised of Mr Oliullah Laskar, Mr Raju Barbhuiya and Ms Taniya Laskar went to late Mr. Hanif Khan’s house on 6 January 2018. The team talked with the wife of the deceased, their children, other family members and neighbors and gathered information as follows:

Youngest son of late Hanif Khan, his mother in law and Raksha Khan (from left) by Taniya Laskar

Youngest son of late Hanif Khan, his mother in law and Raksha Khan (from left) by Taniya Laskar

Mr Hanif Khan was a man of about 37 years. Neighbors said he was law abiding citizen and very mild and gentle in his manners. He had in his family his wife Ms Ruksa Khan, their three sons and a foster daughter. He used to serve as a hired driver to a family.

The illegal immigration issue has been a long standing, vexatious and a burning political issue in Assam for several decades. In 1983 near about 3000 people were massacred in Nellie area of present day Morigaon district. In the following three decades the people of Assam have come across many shifts in the political as well as social paradigms. Recently after Supreme Court’s directions, almost all the political parties and pressure groups agreed upon a correct and error-free NRC. But the process followed by the government to publish the same made most of the common people concerned. The modalities prescribed by the authorities required the citizens to submit a prescribed application form with specified documents issued before 1971 showing their or their ancestors’ citizenship and having link with the said ancestors in case the applicants did not have the pre 1971 documents due to being born later.

Later the modalities got modified and a family tree was required to be submitted by the applicants. Family tree was a documentation of the extended family giving names of all cousins and their family members. The authorities again sought to change the rules and declared that certificate issued by Panchayat (local civic body) secretaries as earlier prescribed would not considered valid. However, the intervention of the Supreme Court retained the validity of such certificates. The admissibility of the pre 1971 documents submitted as proof of citizenship and/or link documents were made subject to the verification of the records of the issuing authorities. The authorities would also conduct physical verification of the applicant citizens and their families in many cases. This made the people, irrespective of ethnicity and religious identity, enraged. People came out in the street and held protests in many places all over the state. Questions were raised as to how the authorities got the power to ask the citizens to prove their citizenship by producing documents. In a petition the Supreme Court directed the authorities to exempt the “original inhabitants” of the state from this rigorous test of citizenship. But the term was nowhere defined and no criteria were given to determine the originality of inhabitation. This created deep apprehension of racial discrimination and arbitrary procedure of updation of NRC among the people of Barak valley.

There has always been a perception among the people of Barak valley that they have been being discriminated by the linguistically aggressive politics of Brahmaputra valley of the state. In 1960 a bill was passed by the Assam state legislature making the Assamese language as the official language of the entire state of Assam including Barak valley. People came out in protest in unprecedented large numbers. During those protests, 11 people were killed in Silchar Railway Station on 19 May 1961. The government was forced to amend the bill and to make Bengali the official language for Barak valley. Ever since the 11 martyrs have been revered by the people and the 19th May observed as Language Martyrs Day in Barak valley every year. This perception of discrimination has again been reinforced by the supply of a Bengali application form with clearly visible Assamese linguistic influence.

There is also another phenomenon known as D-voters. Citizens’ names are arbitrarily tagged with D (dubious or doubtful) in electoral rolls. Their cases are referred to the Foreigners’ Tribunal. In Tribunal such a person has to prove his citizenship. The burden of proof is put on the suspect. In many cases the Tribunals declare such people foreigners based on minor discrepancy and spelling errors in the names of ancestors or the suspect, as the case may be, in pre-1966 documents. Moreover, in many cases notice are not served properly and the tribunals pass decision ex parte. Most of the people don’t have wherewithal to take recourse to higher courts. After the declaration as a foreigner by the Tribunal, police pick the persons up and put them in detention camps which are in fact regular jails. In the absence of a deportation treaty with Bangladesh or any other supposed country of nationality of the persons concerned, they are kept in jails with other convicted criminals for indefinite period. The reports of such midnight knocks are regularly published in newspapers.

Though it is not yet clear what will be the policy for the people whose names are not included in final NRC, to people it is a question between whether they would be sent to the dreaded detention camps directly or through tribunals.

The resultant apprehension of discrimination and fear of losing citizenship that gripped the people of Barak valley also got to Mr Hanif Khan. He was in a constant fear of losing his citizenship. Moreover, in Assam, there are incessant reports in newspapers related to arrest and detention of person belonging to the lower income-strata by the police, after the Foreigners’ Tribunals declare them as the foreigner. Moreover, recently nearly 45000 police personals and 50 army troops were deployed in different “sensitive areas” of the state. This was in addition to fact that the area was declared as part of “disturbed area” under the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. This draconian law empowers even the non-commissioned members of the armed forces to use force even to the extent of killing against anyone who is suspected to have breached or about to breach law and order. The Act also bars the court to take cognizance of any case against the armed forces without sanction from the government of India. All this went to create an environment of reign of terror and an eerie silence among the people. Mr Hanif Khan got more terrified that pushed him to take such an irreversible step to end his life.

Mr Hanif Khan submitted NRC application in due time. A copy of the application is with the BHRPC. The application appears to be according to the prescribed rules. He established his citizenship with the prescribed documents beyond doubt. He claimed the inclusion of his and his family members’ name in the  NRC on the basis of voters list of 1971. He had shown his linkage with his father late Mr. Raj Mohammad Khan and mother late Ms Sahera Khan through voter list of 1971. He submitted the school  certificates of the children to establish linkage with himself. His wife Ruksa Khan’s inclusion is claimed on the basis of linkage with her parents Mr. Rahim Khan and Afushi Bibi through the same voter list of 1971.

Ms Ruksa Khan told the BHRPC team that since the time the verification process of NRC began Mr Hanif Khan was in a constant fear of police torture in case he loses his citizenship. As day of the publication of the first of draft NRC neared, he often hid himself if any police van passed through the high way near his house. Three months ago when he was still in his job he went to a place around 15 kilometres away from his house known as Udharbond. There he found an army vehicle behind his vehicle and he started running instantly and came to his house crossing 15 kilometres of distance right on his foot. Learning this, his employer released him temporarily from his service. Since then he stayed in his house and watched televisions for news and read newspapers and otherwise also tried to collect information about the NRC updation process. He would go on asking everyone about the rules and modalities of NRC and consequences of non-inclusion of his name. He was very concerned about the minor discrepancy regarding his age in one of the voters-list. The neighbours tried to allay his fears by telling him what they knew. But that did not seem to have assured him. His wife tried to take him to the doctor but he didn’t agree. She then asked help of the neighbours and had planned to take him to the hospital forcibly if necessary. But before that he went on missing since 7 pm on Sunday, 31st December 2017 the day when the draft NRC was going to be published. Ms. Raksha Khan stated that at irst she thought he came to watch news on tv but when he did not come back after midnight she started to search for him and was unable to find him thourghout the night. She first saw the body around 6.50 am next morning. Police officials reached the spot around 8.30 am and sent the body to Silchar Medical College and Hospital for post-mortem.

According to Mr Toibur Rehman, one of the neighbour present there, Hanif Khan was perfectly healthy and a well- mannered man. And never had any serious quarrel with anyone. But since the NRC updation process began he appeared to be very worried about it. He also added that another person in the locality namely Mr. Nur Jamal Laskar was also showing similar symptoms and he was under treatment and in strict care of the neighbours. Mr Tapu Das one of the member of the local Panchayat also confirmed the same information. On being asked he said that the NRC process is totally carried on by the Seva Kendras and local Panchayat was never involved in it and he was never informed about the modalities or any other thing. The Panchayat only carries out the duty of issuing Gaon Panchayat Certificates to those who apply for it.

It is to be noted here that this is not the only incident of NRC related suicide. Before that on 6 December 2017, a man aged about 56 years named Mr Akram Uddin Barbhuiya of New Ramnagar area in Cachar district  ended his life by hanging himself on the ceiling of his own room. He was also reported to have been worried over inclusion of his name in the updated NRC. .According to his family members he also went on asking everyone about the procedure adopted in updating NRC and NRC related documents were laying in the floor of the room where he hanged himself. Even two days before that, on 3 December 2017, another man Mr Anwar Hussain, a resident of Bahmura, of Goalpara district also committed suicide for the same reaon under the similar circumstances. According to newspapers reports, Anwar Hussain’s daughter Jahabnara Khatun was served with a notice for verification of the documents submitted for inclusion of her name in theNRC. Following that notice he was much tensed and in a constant fear that his daughter’s citizenship could be taken away.

The BHRPC believes that Mr.Hanif Khan was a victim of a clumsy, erroneous and arbitrary procedure of updation of NRC adopted by the state couple with the xenophobic rhetoric of politicians including members of the council of ministers. The state machinery failed to take the citizens in confidence that they are not going to be discriminated or not going to be victims of any kind of arbitrariness.

BHRPC filed a complaint at the National Human Rights Commission praying for:

  1. An interim compensation to the next of kin of the deceased pending the disposal of the case.
  1. A compensation of Rs. 10 lakh  to the next of kin of the deceased.
  1. and for conducting a study of the procedure of updation of NRC in Assam and to make recommendations so that human rights of the people are not violated in the process.

For further details, please contact:

Taniya Laskar, Secretary General, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Silchar, Assam. Email: bhrpc.ne@gmail.com, Mobile:+919401616763