28, Jan 2019 | CJP Team
The process for correcting names and other particulars for Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) is under way, having begun on January 2, 2019. CJP’s Volunteer Motivators and Community Volunteers are hard at work on the ground across various districts in Assam, helping people whose names appeared in the July 2018 draft list of the NRC file forms to correct relevant details. However, it seems that the correction process, much like the entire NRC process thus far, is rife with problems.
CJP State Coordinator Zamser Ali told CJP’s team in Mumbai that there are multiple problems with the NRC’s correction process. “In some areas, there are no computers, no mobiles, and where there are mobiles, many places have problems with electricity,” he said, adding that many people also struggle because they are not educated. “So, we have to train these people, send volunteers,” he said. CJP has more than 20 Volunteer Motivators across several districts in Assam, as well as more than 500 Community Volunteers working under them.
But, Zamser questioned, “How many forms can community volunteers help fill in one day?” He said that they are attempting to call on all the people who are educated to persuade them into joining their efforts.
Is the process technologically sound?
Zamser outlined multiple instances in which there seem to have been technical glitches in the correction process. According to him, in one case, for one Basumatary family (who belong to the Bodo tribe), are on the draft NRC list, but on entering their ARN, they were told that their names were not on the draft list, so they could not proceed with the correction process. In another instance, for one Ghosh family, Zamser said that their village, which is actually Satyenguri and appears as such in the draft list, is changed when the ARN and legacy data are entered, instead showing Basbarigaon. Zamseri spoke of one Mahapatra family, who found that their ARN and legacy data were not matching, so they could not go ahead.
The CJP team, drawing from its previous experience in providing legal aid in Gujarat, has stepped in with a multi-faceted team of volunteers to ensure that these people receive a fair chance while filing claims across 18 of the worst affected districts. We want to help people reclaim their rights as citizens. We aim to scale up our campaign and for that we need your support. Your contribution can help cover the costs of travel, documentation and technological expenses and eventually legal expenses. Please donate now.
Zamser reported another thorny issue, explaining that although the correction forms can be submitted both online and manually, officials in some Nagrik Seva Kendras (NSKs) have said that they won’t accept manually filled forms. Zamser said that volunteers have had to intervene, and make complaints with district and NRC authorities regarding this problem.
What’s in a name?
Mubarak Ali, CJP’s Volunteer Motivator in the Sonitpur district, explained that in some cases, names, when automatically translated from Assamese to English, have been translated incorrectly, and in other cases, become incorrect when translated from English to Assamese. “The computers don’t have the complete Assamese letters,” he said of his experience thus far, offering the example of his own wife, Morzziana. In her case, Mubarak said that the computer lacked the double letter “zz”. In Mubarak’s ten-person family, four people’s names are wrong, he said. He noted that when corrections are submitted online, if they include mistakes, these cannot be rectified, and wondered when all the corrections might be processed.
Mubarak opined that the people who have been struggling with the process are those living in rural areas, and those who are not educated, or are illiterate, who need help. He said he has been going from home to home, asking if people need help. He spoke to CJP’s team in Mumbai on Wednesday, January 23, from near Tezpur University in Sonitpur.
Zamser has echoed Mubarak’s experience, telling us that when applications were filed, some details were entered incorrectly, mentioning mistakes having taken place during data entry. He stressed that many of those who have been declared ‘Foreigners’ in Assam have been done so because of name-related discrepancies. In July 2018, ahead of the publication of the NRC draft list, CJP reported on one Saken Ali, who was forced to spend five long years at a detention camp because of a discrepancy regarding his name.
Meanwhile, Majidul Islam, CJP’s Volunteer Motivator in the Barpeta district, told us that the process has been going “very well,” and that 80% of it has been completed in his district. He spoke to CJP’s Mumbai team on Wednesday, January 23. He acknowledged that there have been name-related errors, saying that his own name was translated from Majidul to Mojidul, but said this was editable online. However, he said that for correction forms that have been submitted offline, problems could arise, adding that he had heard of problems cropping up in other districts.
Claims and objections
It must be noted that the correction process is entirely independent of the claims and objections process of the NRC that concluded in December 2018, applicable to the more than 40 lakh people who excluded from the July 18 draft of the NRC. A recent hearing in the Supreme Court revealed that 36.2 lakh claims have been filed, along with around 2 lakh objections. However, the objections may not all be legitimate. One CJP volunteer has told us that in his local NSK, three people have reportedly filed 650 objections. Moreover, he explained that numerous objections lack the personal details of those who have filed them, containing only names, despite the fact that these details are required. This volunteer said that NRC authorities have said that these will be considered invalid, but noted that whether this will actually be the case remains unclear.
CJP has been working for several months to stave off a humanitarian crisis in Assam, setting up a toll-free number and a mobile application to provide help to those filing claims, and deploying volunteers on the ground to assist in-person, as well as train other volunteers and build up a statewide network. In November 2018, CJP issued a call for help, prompting around 200 government employees, teachers, members of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) and more joined hands with CJP to fill up 10,000 NRC claim forms within just 40 hours. CJP volunteers on the ground in Assam have helped around ten lakh people, and we plan to persist with our efforts as the NRC process continues.