12, Aug 2021 | CJP Team
Lakshmi is considered the goddess of wealth and good luck in India. An eastern Indian variant of this name is Lakhi. Often little girls are given this name to bless them with both these things. But wealth and luck have forever eluded Lakhi who grew up in a Guwahati orphanage, and is not saddled with the additional burden of defending her citizenship.
“I don’t know who my parents are. I don’t even know who gave me my name,” says Lakhi who grew up in the Shishu Kalyan Sadan orphanage in Guwahati. When she grew up, she got a job in the city while still living at the orphanage. There she met Suresh Roy. The two got married and Lakhi finally left the orphanage to start a family of her own with her husband.
At first, they lived in Guwahati, but six years ago, they moved to Suresh’s parent’s home in Kaimari pt ii village, that falls under the jurisdiction of Agomani police station in Dhubri district. When she tried to get her name enrolled here as a voter, she was shocked to discover that she had been declared a D-Voter!
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!
Excluded from the NRC, Lakhi now fears for her children’s future.
“I don’t want my children to suffer because of what is happening to me,” says the mother of two school-going children. Her son is in the 10th standard while her daughter studies in class 7.
Discrepancies in documents
Her name appears as Lakhi Das in a document issued by the orphanage where she grew up. However, her Voter ID gives her name as Lakshi Ray, while her Aadhaar card says her name is Lakshmi Roy.
“My correct name is Lakhi, but different government officials recorded incorrect spellings in different documents,” she says. CJP has encountered this sort of a problem on various occasions where government officials record names and spellings as per their whims and fancies.
According to her Aadhaar card and PAN card, her date of birth is November 7, 1980. The name of one Bhaskar Roy appears on her PAN card in place of her father’s name. Bhaskar Roy’s name also appears on her Voter ID.
“Bhaskar Roy was a person who lived in the neighbourhood. At the time of my marriage, he unofficially adopted me as a father is required to give the girl away during the wedding ceremony,” says Lakhi explaining why his name appears on some of her documents. “As far as the surname Das goes, I’m from Assam so the orphanage people gave me a generic Assamese surname,” she says. “The date of birth was also something the orphanage people guessed and put in their records. That’s how it appeared on all my documents,” she says.
Her documents may be viewed here:
As per a letter from the orphanage that says she lived there between 1990 and 1998. But this means she arrived at the orphanage as a 10-year-old. However, Lakshmi counters this. “I was told that I was 3-6 months old when I arrived at the orphanage. I was just a baby. All my childhood memories are of growing up in the orphanage,” says Lakhi.
Being marked D Voter
As far as electoral rolls go Lakhi says, “After I got married, I got my name included in the electoral roll. It was included in the East Guwahati constituency where my husband and I lived. I remember casting my vote from that constituency at least twice.” But, six yeas ago, they moved to Dhubri. “I went to get my name included in the voter’s list for Golakganj in Dhubri, and found that it had been marked D,” she says.
Till date, Lakhi has not been given any explanation or even an official notice of being marked a “doubtful” or D Voter, but now she has been excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC). “I applied to have my name included in the NRC, but it was excluded because I have been designated a D-Voter,” she says.
CJP Assam Team’s Habibul Bepari who is the District Volunteer Motivator for Dhubri met with Lakhi and discovered that she had not even applied for the claims and objections process. “Some of it was due to fear, but mainly lack of money. She works as a domestic help and the family is economically weak,” he explains. The CJP team has collected her documents and is working on an appropriate legal course of action to help Lakhi.
It is noteworthy that in 2018, the SOPs for NRC inclusion pertaining to inclusion of names for orphans exempted them from providing linkage documents.
“Destitute or orphans for whom applications have been submitted by institutional homes will not be governed by any requirement of documents. Their citizenship status will be ascertained based on alternative evidence, if available, through a committee comprising the district registrar of citizen registration (DRCR), additional deputy commissioner in charge of NRC, the circle registrar of citizen registration (CRCR) and the district social welfare officer,” said the SOP.
In November 2019, CJP had filed an Intervention Application for Directions in a writ petition case, Assam Public Works vs. UOI (274 of 2009). CJP brought to fore the point that children have been excluded from the NRC Final List even when their parents are included which amounted to direct contravention of the State’s obligation towards children as envisaged under Article 15 (3), Article 39 (e) & (f), Article 45 and Article 47 of the Constitution of India, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Along with the Application was also attached a list of 61 of such excluded children. CJP also cited the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which India has ratified which makes it obligatory under Article 8 for all State Parties to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. Also, Article 9 holds State Parties responsible for ensuring that a child is not separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. In its order, given on the January 6 hearing, the Supreme Court directed the Assam government to ensure that no children of parents whose names have been included in the final NRC list be sent to detention centres or be separated from their parents until the said application by CJP is fully considered.
But, Lakhi’s case is a little different, as it wasn’t the orphanage that applied to have her name included in the NRC. She did it herself as an adult, years after leaving the orphanage. However, the letter from the orphanage could perhaps add as a mitigating factor.