26, Jun 2021 | CJP Team
Moyna Barman, a Koch Rajbongshi woman in her 90s, was once the village belle. So much so that people started calling her Devi meaning goddess or angel in light of her divine looks, and that’s how her name got distorted in official records. Now the unlettered woman, who belongs to a community that is seen among the Original Inhabitants of Assam, has to prove her citizenship because of a nickname given to her.
“I was named Moyna at birth and that is my only name,” she says. “But back in the day, I was so beautiful, people started calling me Devi and it got recorded as Moyna Moti Devi in the NRC,” she explains. She never went to school and her family never understood the importance of having accurate information entered in government records. “Some officials came to the house for a survey and recorded my name with the word Devi in it. I’m uneducated, but why did educated people make this mistake,” she asks, also lamenting why such a small thing cannot be corrected.
Every day of each week, a formidable team of community volunteers, district volunteer motivators and lawyers—CJP’s Team Assam – is providing ready at hand paralegal guidance, counselling and actual legal aid to hundreds of individuals and families paralysed by the citizenship-driven humanitarian crisis in the state. Our boots on the ground approach has ensured that 12,00,000 persons filled their forms to enlist in the NRC (2017-2019) and over the past one year alone we have helped release 41 persons from Assam’s dreaded detention camps. Our intrepid team provides paralegal assistance to, on an average of 72-96 families each month. Our district-level, legal team works on 25 Foreigner Tribunal cases month on month. This ground level data ensures informed interventions by CJP in our Constitutional Courts, the Guwahati High Court and the Supreme Court. Such work is possible because of you, individuals all over India, who believe in this work. Our maxim, Equal Rights for All. #HelpCJPHelpAssam. Donate NOW!
Moyna was named a doubtful voter (D Voter) in 2007 and was forced to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT). It didn’t help that she has lived in the char area all her life. This is a riverine region along the border and is extremely flood prone. Often entire villages are washed away and people are forced to relocate, bag and baggage, with whatever limited documents they may have, address records rendered irrelevant by the whims of a moody river.
Moyna was born in the Maitel village in an area adjacent to the Bangladesh border. She was married off very early in life and moved to her husband’s home in Kedar (part i) village in Dhubri district where they had three children, a son and two daughters. After her son’s death a few years ago, Moyna started living with one of her daughters, who had moved after marriage to the neighbouring Kedar (part iii) village. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Golakganj police station and is located in the Gauripur Legislative Assembly Council in Dhubri district.
“I first heard of Bangladesh in 1971,” says Moyna, unable to understand her predicament. She asks, “I had voted in Naliya in 1966 and Dimapuri after that. Why has my voting since then been stopped?”
The elderly lady is ailing with a skin condition, but that isn’t the only itch she wants to scratch. “I have a rash, but I cannot go to the hospital to have it treated,” she says as she has been unable to avail of any health schemes for the elderly, possibly due to her citizenship being in question. Her family is impoverished and cannot afford her treatment otherwise. “I have no money, but I can’t live with this itch,” says the elderly lady, clearly frustrated by her condition.
“The 1951 NRC gave her age as 20, so she is in her 90s now,” says CJP’s Assam Team member and District Volunteer Motivator (DVM) Habibul Bepari who visited Moyna. “When she was declared D Voter in 2007, the family did not know what to do as they are unlettered and also economically weak,” he explains further. “Then she was served a notice around 2017-18 to appear before the FT. There were two hearings and Moyna herself was present for one despite her advanced age. But then the lockdown began and FT activities were suspended,” says Bepari.
The CJP Assam team is now helping Moyna Barman. “Moyna Barman is old, frail and ailing. She is unable to walk unsupported. As a human rights organisation, CJP is committed to helping all Indians, and we are therefore going to assist Moyna Barman as well,” says Nanda Ghosh, CJP Assam State Team In-charge.