It has been nearly six months since 41-year-old Muhammad Fakaruddin Khan was excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens or NRC with around 19 lakh others. However, Mr Khan and lakhs of others like him have been waiting anxiously for the final list to be notified so that they can then appeal their exclusion to the foreigners’ tribunals with certified documents.
Mr Khan, a small-time businessman from Hojai district that has one of highest exclusions in the citizenship list, has land records, past voters’ lists among other documents to show.
“Till now the window of appeal is yet to start. We are not even aware of the reasons of our exclusion from the final list. We are concerned and confused if the documents we have will work or not though we have kept certified copies ready,” Mr Khan told NDTV.
Besides the anxiety and uncertainty, expenses too are mounting.
“Most of those left out are poor people. They are worried and don’t know what to do. For one certified copy of documents, the advocates are asking for Rs 500 to Rs 1,000,” Manowar Hussian, a top leader from the All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU), said.
Over 19 lakh people were left out of the National Register of Citizens that was published on August 31, 2019, after a mammoth years-long exercise to check illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh.
But with the NRC yet to be notified, those excluded have not been informed of the grounds on which they were kept out and the appeals process has not yet begun.
With a large number of Hindus left out of the list, the BJP, which rules the centre and the state, has called for the NRC to be scrapped or re-verified.
But while many Hindus will have the safety net of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which promises citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, Muslims do not have any such bailout.
Their big question is will the documents work now, having failed earlier.
“Now that the media has been reporting on how land documents and other key documents have not been accepted, this is bound to create concern and confusion. But they have a way out. If you have land document prior to 1971, you need to prove its authenticity. If it is after 1971, you link to link it to your parents,” said Syed Burhanur Rehman , a lawyer at Gauhati High Court.