Assam floods
More than 19 lakh people in Assam have been excluded from the final version of the NRC in Assam that was released by the state government on August 31, 2019 at 10 am | Pic: The Federal

With floods ruining NRC-relevant documents, Assam residents face bleak future

Floods can wreck homes and lives, but if you are in this part of the country, it could even affect your citizenship.

“I can’t prove my citizenship now. I have lost everything in the recent floods. My house in Ashram Road is still under water. I have lost all the important documents,” said a heartbroken Sefali, aged 50, sitting at a relief camp in Silchar, a city located 350 km away from Guwahati in Assam.

Assam is just recovering from one of the worst floods in decades, which caused damages worth nearly ₹10,000 crore and left nearly 200 people killed.

What makes Sefali’s case precarious is the impending National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the subsequent Citizenship Act.

Without these documents, many of the displaced will have a tough time proving their citizenship. Sometimes, all that matters is a sheaf of papers even in this digital age.

“If I cannot prove my Indian citizenship, the police may arrest me anytime as my name has not been included in the final NRC list,” said Sefali, tears rolling down her face.

At the relief camp crammed with 5,000 inmates, there are many Sefalis, staring at a bleak future.

19 lakh people excluded from NRC

More than 19 lakh people in Assam have been excluded from the updated version of NRC in Assam. About 3.29 crore people had applied for the NRC, of which 3.11 crore made it to the final list. To make it to the final list, people like Sefali need these documents which were drowned in the floods.

Assam Floods
The ordeal of the flood-hit residents of Assam | Pic: The Federal

Also Read: Assam floods: Over 3 lakh people still remain affected, 416 villages lay inundated

Having lost all the documents, Sukumar Das, a fish-seller from  Bishfuti, is too traumatised that he could not even mutter a word. His livelihood is also at stake, with all the water bodies getting submerged.

“My bag with all the important files is damaged, almost irrevocable. I was not bothered about the bag because I was busy saving other members of the family from swirling flood waters,” said Sudhir Ranjan Das, a native of Malinibeel in Silchar.

What lies ahead?

So, what is in store for these people who lost all the documents in the floods?

“It is going to be an uphill task. I have come across many such people who lost all the documents,” said Rupak Chakraborty, general secretary, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Social Welfare Society, Silchar.

Another activist Kamal Chakraborty said most people can’t even afford legal recourse to take the long battle forward and have their citizenship protected.

“Around 5,000 flood victims, mostly from Malinibeel, Ashram Road and Chirukandi are staying at the camp. The area is still waterlogged and they cannot go to their villages to assess the loss. We will collect all the names of these people and submit them to the state government as special cases,” said Chakraborty.

Also Read: Assam tragedy: Silchar searches for hope amid floods, authorities’ neglect

The sordid tales are not limited to Barak Valley or Silchar; similar stories are also being reported from other parts of the state.

The house of Bikram Das in Tamulpur district has been washed away by floods, taking along valuable items and other important documents. Bikram, whose name has not been included on the NRC’s final list, is shattered, wondering how he is going to prove his (Indian) citizenship.

Any sort of help from the Assam government is unlikely with some reports saying “the floods are manmade”.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who has visited Silchar several times after the floods, himself termed the floods “manmade”.

As per some reports, the floods in Silchar were triggered after some miscreants allegedly broke the dyke of Barak River in Betukandi.  The Assam police has already arrested five persons (Raju Deb, Kabul Khan, Mithu Hussain Laskar, Nazir Hussian Laskar and Ripon Khan) in connection with the incident and a CID inquiry is now underway.

Cachar superintendent of police Ramandeep Kaur said the arrest was based on video footage related to the breach of the embankment.

As per the data provided till Tuesday (July 12), floods and landslides in Assam this monsoon season, one of the worst in decades, caused damages worth nearly ₹10,000 crore. As many as 193 people lost their lives, and over 250,000 people have been affected or displaced.

Also Read: Assam floods: ‘The challenge is twice the size of Brahmaputra’

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