Babul Hajong had always considered him as an Assamese.
And he has reasons for that.
A resident of Derapathar village in Hojai district of central Assam, Babul was born here, did his schooling and even married here.
But on August 31, Babul suddenly stumbled upon yet another truth about him that he is also a descendant of a refugee from East Pakistan.
Babul Hajong and his three-member family were among those 1.9 million people, who were excluded from the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in Assam on August 31.
“We have always considered ourselves as Assamese. We are born here and lived all our lives here. But the NRC reminded us that we were just descendants of our grandfather, who was a refugee from East Pakistan,” 44-year-old Babul said.
“My grandfather, late Brindaban Hajong came to India in 1964. Initially, he stayed at Matia in Goalpara district till 1966 when he shifted to this village. The then Assam government gave 7.5 bighas of land to all the refugees who settled here,” he said.
Names of Babul and many others in the village have been excluded from the final NRC despite the fact that the people had submitted their valid documents to the NRC authorities for inclusion of their names in the NRC.
Out of the 11,000 voters in Derapathar area, only about 6,000 people could make it to the final NRC while the rest were excluded.
“We have all the valid documents to prove that our forefathers came to India before 1971 and yet our names were not there. We thought the NRC would end the problems once and for all but it has only triggered fresh problems for us,” said Babul.
Similarly, Subimal Hajong is worried as the names of his 76-year-old mother and brother were excluded from the final NRC.
“All our four brothers and our mother have used the appointment letter of our father issued in 1966 by the Assam government as legacy document.”
“While the names of myself and two others appeared in the NRC, younger brother Sukumar (44) and my mother Durgamoni Hajong’s names were excluded,” said Subimal, a retired Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) jawan.
The 1951 NRC has been updated for Assam to identify the genuine Indian citizens through a rigorous process of verification. March 25, 1971 was the cut-off date for considering the Indian citizenship status.
The process of verification, however, frustrated many like the Hajongs whose forefathers came to Assam long before the cut-off date.
Although they are not much scared of losing citizenship but the long legal battle that awaits them has definitely scared many of them.