Struggling for identity

Aug 10,2018

It is not being alleged that people who are not listed in the NRC are Bangladeshis? This is absolutely ridiculous.

Academic Tapodhir BhaTtacharjee, 69, recounts his fears after his name had been struck out from the first draft of National Register of Citizens, which was released in December 2017. His name was, however, included in the final draft.

I was born in Silchar in 1949 and have been residing there my whole life. I spent my life in academics and was chosen by the President of India to be the Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Assam. I don’t have any other testimony as to my being accepted as a citizen of this country. The certainty of a safe future with my family was clouded when the first draft of the NRC was released in December 2017.  None of my family members’ names were on that list.

It was terribly shocking and distressing that something like this could occur.  I feel certain things are absolutely baffling at the top level of management; it is absolutely in their control and on their behalf that the NRC was prepared. It is misguiding but we have been told that everything is fair and right. It all sounds boorish. We were wondering why and how this could happen to us? Now, since everyone from the family has finally been approved as citizens of India, apart from my youngest sister in law Shanta Bhatacharjee, I can closely relate to those four million people who have been kept out from NRC list.

What disturbs me the most are the roaring voices that are coming from the helm of this chaos. It is not being alleged that people who are not listed in the NRC are Bangladeshis? This is absolutely ridiculous. Where are these Bangladeshis coming from? Secondly, just because we speak Bangla, we have been considered as immigrants in our own place, and that’s insulting. I wonder where are these voices coming from? We have just been branded as illegal migrants and, trust me, no one is rejecting this thought. The time I learnt that my name wasn’t listed, the feeling of unknown and the fear of being called an illegal migrant was distressing. I still have the same feeling for those who have been left out from the final draft. This term - ‘Bangladeshi’, is infuriating. It is mistreatment. I felt there was a very clearly defined emphasis that all Bengalis are seen to be Bangladeshis and that pained me.

The same morning I realised that all those who have not made it to the list have been recorded as D voters (Doubtful voters). I am devastated by the thought that many people I have known for years will also be considered as D voters. My sister-in-law too will be following the same route. But I understand that entire disarray has been done very calculatedly, just to exclude people in this exclusionary system.

Though my name was included in the final draft, I know other individuals in my surroundings, who have been serving the nation in defence and civil services, who were excluded from the list. We all can just hope for the best. And as per the new instructions by the NRC team, they will be filling forms starting from August 7 and will display all the testimonies to prove that they are the citizens of the country. I am still worried about the new documents that have been demanded since the ones submitted earlier are apparently not adequate to prove one’s identity. Is it possible? There are so many questions.

My mind still ponders over the thought about those who are not well educated and can’t understand the technicality of filling forms and arranging their documents. Who is going to help them? Can someone from the judiciary come forward and help them? This is going to ruin the country where the sun shines equally in every corner. The entire incident is disturbing and is draining me emotionally and mentally. It is creating havoc. I really wish we could think somewhat from the perspective of human rights rather than just fall for political agendas.

As told to Priyanka Chandani


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