'Foreigner' tag irks ex-servicemen left out of Assam's National Registry of Citizens

'Foreigner' tag irks ex-servicemen left out of Assam's National Registry of Citizens

"I fought Pakistan in Kargil, but now they call me a foreigner.” Ex-serviceman Sadullah sounded angry as he spoke about his exclusion from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a list of bonafide Indian citizens in Assam when Onmanorama contacted him on Sunday.

Sadullah was among the 19 lakh people who were left out from the register, which was released on Saturday.

The NRC received applications from 3.3 crores Assam residents, out of which 3.11 crore have been added to the register. Those who are left out may approach foreign tribunals to stake their claim to be Indian citizens.

Onmanorama had contacted Sadulla in August 2018, immediately after the draft NRC list was published. “They should have kept a special column for defence personnel in the NRC so that nobody would question our credentials. This was a clear case of ignorance and political arrogance," Sadullah, who retired from IAF after 20 years of service, said then.

After the draft list, Sadullah produced land possession documents dating back to 1907 and his father's citizenship record of 1967 before the NRC. But his hopes were dashed when the final list was published on Saturday.

Sadulla joined the Army after he dropped out of the medical college. “I have always been a responsible citizen. Now they call me a foreigner," he fumed.

Sana Ulla's fate

Captain (retd) Sana Ulla considers himself as an unlucky person. "My three children and I have been left out. However, my wife Sanima Begum found a place in it, as she is using her parents' address," he said on Sunday.

When Onmanorama rang him up in August 2018, Sana Ulla lamented the fact that he was not an Indian citizen despite fighting decades on the border. “Now I am not a citizen of my country," he said after he failed to make the draft NRC list.

Sana Ulla is now awaiting a positive judgement on his plea from the Assam High Court. “I have all the documents to prove that I am an Indian citizen,” he said.

Another person to lose out was  Moihulneesa, 60, a mother of seven children. "Where will I go now?” she asked Moihulneesa. Her husband and all their seven sons have found a place in the NRC list.

Luck smiled on Kargil war veteran Azmal Haq and former Indian Air Force officer Acharya as their names figured in the final NRC list. A year ago, the two were in tears when the draft list was published. “Justice reassured,” Azmal Haq told Onmanorama, “the government has done justice to us.”

'Life will never be the same again'

Shajahan Ali Ahmed is a freelance journalist, social worker and NRC activist hailing from Baksa district. He said the life of 'foreigners' will never be the same again. 

“The legal process to prove their citizenship will take a lot of time and people will encounter roadblocks in their day-to-day life because of their 'suspected foreigner' status,” he said.

But Shahjahan said those who have successfully applied for inclusion in NRC will definitely find a place in it through the court intervention. He is now busy organising the NRC victims of his district to advise them on the next course of legal action.

Those excluded from the final NRC list may approach the Foreigners' Tribunal. Meanwhile, the centre has promised that those excluded from the list will neither be discriminated in their homeland nor declared foreigners.

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