Nellie/Morigaon/ Kokrajhar (Assam): Damoyanti Talukdar, a resident of Assam’s Nellie area, had been cleared by the foreigners’ tribunal in Morigaon district in 2010 and, thereafter, recognized as a legitimate Indian citizen. However, she finds herself staring at possible disenfranchisement, with the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) omitting her name.
Even as the fate of 2.48 lakh D-voters (doubtful voters) hangs in the balance following the publication of the final draft NRC released on 30 July, the foreigners’ tribunals have failed to update the authorities on the status of several residents who have been cleared, said state government officials.
In case a person is declared a foreigner by the tribunal in the post-1971 period, Assam state police officials said such people are to be arrested with immediate effect and sent to one of the six detention centres.
However, if they have been cleared as Indian citizens, they were required to approach the Foreigners Registration officers (FRO)—the superintendent of police (SP) of the district—and get themselves registered within 60 days of being cleared.
“Once the tribunal issues the judgment, the district magistrate and the SP get a copy. The person who has been cleared is supposed to approach the SP and after cross-examination, they are registered and their names are sent to NRC officials. But neither these people nor the advocates at the tribunals even know that this has to be done. As a result, thousands of names of cleared D-voters have been left out of the draft NRC," said a senior state government official, seeking anonymity.
Like in Nellie and Morigaon, in Assam’s Kokrajhar district, D-voters also find themselves in a limbo. With the deadline for the final NRC list drawing close, the district administration has now started community exercises to offer more clarity to those whose names have been left out of the draft NRC.
“Since they did not know what had to be done, we are now suggesting them to approach the tribunal and ask for an extension of the date, so that they can go to the FRO and get registered," said a senior Assam state police official, on the condition of anonymity.
At the same time, experts added while cases of D-voters was subject to clearance by the foreigners tribunal as well as clearance by the border police, the number of D-voters was likely to reduce in the future, before the final NRC is published.
“The numbers of D-voters are higher now and the list of D-voters is handed over by the border police to the state officials. Once the final list is published, this number will most likely go down because the border police list will also be rechecked," said Nani Gopal Mahanta, head of the department (political science) at Gauhati University.