For 62-year old Shamsher Ali of Assam’s Dhubri district, there was hardly any time to lose as flood waters rushed into his home in July. Although Ali has lost his home to the swirling waters of the Brahmaputra at least five times in as many decades, this time the calamity looked far greater amid a pandemic that has caught the world unawares.
Until last month, Ali used to live on Kalaikhaowa char (sand bar) close to the India-Bangladesh border. But as the Brahmaputra gobbled up the entire sand bar, Ali and his family were forced to leave behind the remnants that they called home not too long ago.
“Life has been terribly cruel to people like us. Every summer, I pray to God to spare us this one time,” he says.
In the past several years, Ali says, he has lost four bighas of land to erosion. Yet he has held the land documents close to his chest all these years even if those papers never helped him get any compensation. “I continue to pay tax for those plots. It will at least help me establish that I’m an Indian and I own land here,” he says, laying bare his fears of the possibility of being branded a Bangladeshi national once the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process resumes. (The final list was published almost a year ago but more than 19 lakh people — excluded from the list — are waiting for its notification to move forward.)
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