25, Oct 2023 | CJP Team
In a secluded corner of Assam, CJP’s steadfast dedication persists, even as the challenges faced by marginalised Indians multiply amidst the citizenship crisis in Assam. In this vein, a new draft voter list has been released in the state by the Election Commission of India, Assam, which has ironically become a source of injustice and anguish for many people.
CJP’s Team Assam has been diligently reviewing this newly released draft voter list. Their primary focus has been in identifying and documenting the details of D voters for further communication. This marks the meticulous detail and dedication with which CJP adheres to ensuring human rights are protected in Assam.
Every week, CJP’s dedicated team in Assam, comprising community volunteers, district volunteer motivators, and lawyers, provides vital paralegal support, counselling, and legal aid to many affected by the citizenship crisis in over 24 districts in Assam. Through our hands-on approach, 12,00,000 people successfully submitted completed NRC forms (2017-2019). We fight Foreigner Tribunal cases monthly at the district level. Through these concerted efforts, we have achieved an impressive success rate of 20 cases annually, with individuals successfully obtaining their Indian citizenship. This ground level data ensures informed interventions by CJP in our Constitutional Courts. Your support fuels this crucial work. Stand with us for Equal Rights for All #HelpCJPHelpAssam. Donate NOW!
Additionally, they have also been checking for any errors in individuals’ names, parent’s names, ages, and other relevant information that might be of help to people to make their case in the tribunals. Despite repeatedly encountering network issues in Assam while attempting to download the voter list, CJP’s team members struggle to aid people.
District Voluntary Motivator Habibul Bepari and Community Volunteers in the CJP team have been working efficiently to help D-voters. One such story to emerge from this ongoing citizenship crisis in Assam is that of Ashraful Sk from Jhaskal village under the Agomoni police station in the Dhubri District of Assam. Ashraful has been a lifelong resident of Jhaskal since his birth. Born and raised in this remote corner of Assam, Ashraful’s early life was marred by the lack of access to or educational opportunities due to dire poverty and lack of basic amenities that he and his family suffered with. As he grew older, to make ends meet he worked tirelessly on the family’s land. Despite many socio-economic hurdles, Ashraful was able to fend for his family and complete his duties as best he could. He has married off his daughter and his son is currently pursuing his studies, but, disaster struck when he discovered his name marked with a dreaded “D” on the voter list in 2007 as he tried to participate as a voter in the elections.
The shock of this revelation put him in a frenzy of disbelief. Seeking to fix the issue and take part in the democratic process, he immediately visited the house of the Booth Level Officer to inquire about his status. However, his pleas fell on deaf ears as the BLO offered no response. However, he remained undeterred, and he took the matter to court multiple times and even personally visited the Election Office himself. He even tried to approach the Foreigners Tribunal and tried to find out what was the reason behind the ‘D’ status for him.
Even though he was an illiterate farmer, Ashraful remained determined. Struck by emotion during his recall, Ashraful told CJP that he was prepared to undertake any job even if it has to be bonded labour, to fix this – however resources, and endless hope remained out of his reach and he had reluctantly resigned himself to being unjustly labelled as a “D” voter.
There was no clear end to his troubles and 2019 brought a new calamity for Ashraful as his daughter sought to enrol her name in the voter list in her husband’s village. However, the BLO of that locality denied her the right to vote because of her father’s status as a “D” voter.
Desperate and helpless and in absolute panic, Ashraful approached several advocates for assistance with the hope that someone would aid him. However, advocates placed high fees and none came to his help in his time of desperation. His hopes fell further when an advocate subjected him to racial slurs. This deeply hurtful experience weighed heavily on Ashraful’s heart and compelled him to abandon hope for justice in his fight against the “D” label that had unjustly plagued him for over a decade.
The plight of Ashraful is one among many. The challenges faced by Ashraful and others in similar situations highlights the urgent necessity for affordable legal representation and a more just and humane approach to addressing such issues. In Assam, people like Ashraful battle multiple battles, including poverty, discrimination, lack of education and poor health.
In March 2021 CJP also filed a plea in the Gauhati High Court seeking directions for effective modalities for legal aid in terms of having trained panels of lawyers and adequate front offices in light of the impending appeals to be filed before Foreigners Tribunals by those excluded from National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam. The NRC final list had come out on August 31, 2019 and since then those excluded from the list have been living a life in limbo and trying desperately to prove their citizenship and they are in dire need of legal aid.
However, CJP continues to stand as a beacon of hope. CJP has aided over 50 and counting people to regain their status as Indian after proving it in courts. The organisation, as a mammoth wave, continues its work from legal aid, everyday assistance in the process, to legal awareness workshops, thus creating a comprehensive means of tackling unawareness, helplessness and despair is undertaken by CJP’s humanitarian endeavour in Assam. CJP’s team also checks on people who are caught in the citizenship crisis, aids them in procuring their documents, and fixing any errors that may have arisen due to lack of resources, illiteracy or mistakes. Thus, their unwavering dedication to fighting injustice and discrimination remains unshaken. As new challenges emerge in Assam, such as the draft of voter list, delimitation commissions, they are determined to work against all odds for citizens, embodying the spirit of democracy and equality even in the most challenging of circumstances.