26, Nov 2018 | Zamser Ali
The excruciating and soul-crushing process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the long standing ‘D’ Voter vis-a-vis Foreigners Tribunal has taken not less than 35 lives until now. After Samsul Hoque of village Bagariguri under the Barpeta district took the extreme decision to take his own life on November 14, 2018, two other persons also allegedly committed suicide in a period of just less than 24 hours!
Surendra Barman (27) of village Srirampur Colony under Simultapu police outpost of Kokrajhar district and Monnas Ali(65) of Thelamara area in the Darrang District hanged themselves on November 19 and 20, respectively.
Over four million people have been left out of the NRC draft, most of them from socio-economically backward communities. Now CJP, drawing from its previous experience in providing legal aid in Gujarat, will step in with a multi-faceted team of lawyers and volunteers to ensure that these people receive a fair chance while filing claims across 18 of the worst affected districts. Your contribution can help cover the costs of a legal team, travel, documentation and technological expenses. Please donate generously here.
Reason behind the extreme step
What led them to take this extreme step, were the repeated discrepancies in the D Voter system and the NRC’s ongoing updating process. Thus, both Surendra Barman and Monnas Ali became the 34th and 35th victim of the NRC and Foreigners Tribunals (FT) process in Assam.
Surendra Barman, a young man of 27, had been not only tagged a ‘D Voter’, but had also been fighting his FT case for the last two years. His name had been missing from the final draft of the NRC that was published on July 30, 2018. A few years ago, Surendra Barman gravitated to Guwahati in search of work. He was detained by the Assam Police and a ‘Foreigner’ case was lodged against him. During the last two years, this young man, the sole breadwinner of his family was also burdened with having to run from pillar to post in this gross process and to also dish out huge sums of money to only prove his citizenship, that he is Indian. With a seven-member family to support, this broke him.
Bajoy Das of the same locality has stated that, “Tufanu Barman, who is the grand-father of Surendra Barman has all valid documents proving himself to be an Indian, going back to 1964. Tufanu Barman was allotted a small plot of land in 1966 in which the family is residing to date. Mahendra Barman, who is father of Surendra Barman is a regular voter and he has been enjoying the right to franchise until now. Apart from this, Surendra Barman, the sole breadwinner and a daily wage earner of a marginalised had to carry the burden of the disgrace of being dubbed a ‘D Voter’ and doubtful foreigner. It became an unbearable source of pain for the youth who hanged himself on the early morning of November 19.”
The body of Surendra Barman was recovered in the jungles close to a nearby village. The incident created a huge reaction among the local people and their various organizations. The All Assam Bengali Youth Students Federation (ABYSF) led a strong protest march that blocked the national highway no 31 on the same day. They shouted slogans against prime minister Narendra Modi and chief minister, Assam Sarbananda Sonowal, for their false promises and the betrayal of Bengali Hindus of the state.
In 2014, the then incumbent PM, Modi had ‘promised’ that the BJP will close down the detention camps of Assam and that not a single Hindu people will have to sacrifice their lives in the name of being dubbed ‘foreigner’ in Assam. During the UPA I and II regimes, there was one single case of suicide of Arjun Namasudra. But under this rapacious regime at the Centre and state, the death toll due to suicide stands at 35 lives already!
On the very next day after the tragedy that befell Surendra Barman, the suicide of one more hapless victim of the NRC/Citizenship process, namely Monnas Ali (65) of Kamarchuburi village under the Thelamara police station in the Sonitpur District shook the local population. Monnas Ali took his life because his name did not appear in the final draft NRC. Ali, the head and only earning member of the family of 10 persons was quite depressed since the publication of the final draft NRC. Though the name of his father Sukur Ali is present in the NRC of 1951 and also in the Voters list of 1966 and 1971, the name of Monnas Ali has been dropped from the final draft NRC.
When Sukur Ali came to know that all the names of his family have appeared in the final draft NRC except for him, he was terrified of being actually declared a ‘D Voter’ or ‘foreigners’ at any moment. If that happened it would all members of his family.
“Monnas Ali, who was excluded from his ancestral land and property just last year by the massive erosion of on the river Panchnoi has been living a miserable life on a plot of land which is not even of his own. He has been having detailed discussions, in distress with his close circle of friends: that, how, having all valid documents, has his name has not appeared in the final draft of the updated NRC, especially when all other name of his family including siblings have appeared in the final draft NRC with the same documents,” asked Anowar Hussain, a local resident.
It was the thought of this complication and the expenses involved in facing a Foreigner Tribunal case that led him to tie the noose around his neck. “ This will save his family the humiliation of his being declared a foreigner,” added Hussain.
The situation compelled him to commit suicide at about 3 am on November 20, 2018. As an unrepentant and non-responsive state continues on its path which is both bureaucratic and non-inclusive, the human cost of the process is proving too much for the people of Assam to bear.