Subhash Ree is one among 12,138 odd D-voters (doubtful voters) in Assam, who are caught between the ‘devil’ and the ‘deep sea’.
Subhash Ree finds his name enlisted as an Indian citizen on July 30 last when the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published but the age-old tag of being a D-voter has still not left his name. Yes, he is a bona fide Indian citizen, but he cannot cast his vote being a D-voter.
Subhash Ree’s is a blatant case of being in no man’s land. A member of the tea tribe community, he has been living under the shadows of being a D-voter since 1997, but, has been serving as a State Government employee in the Public Works Department (PWD) from 1991 at Katigorah under Cachar district of Assam.
In his 27 years of service, he has not been able to cast his vote since 1998 (12th general elections to the Lok Sabha). Long 20 years have passed, yet, no one seems to have any answer for his woes.
Speaking to Northeast Now, advocate Dharmananda Deb, who filed a prayer to the Superintendent of Police (Border) to check his name and came up empty-handed, said, “Their is no case registered against Subhash Ree at the Foreigners’ Tribunal, nor there is any case that has been put up before the SP (Border) for verification of this person.”he added,
The D-voter tag was put against his name in the electoral list of 1997, but who would erase it is the biggest question.
“Like Subhash Ree, there are 12,138 odd residents living in Assam, who have a similar tale to narrate. They have been classified as D-voters, but no case records are available against their names,” added advocate Dharmananda Deb.
Narrating his tale to Northeast Now, Subhash Ree said, “I exercised my franchise for the first time in 1991 for the Assembly election at Kanaikuri Tea Garden polling booth, a place where my father, late Keena Ree, served all his life. A few months later, I got a job at Katigorah PWD office and had to shift to a quarter near the office premises to serve as a chowkidar.”
He added, “All my woes started from here on, as in 1992, my name got enrolled in the voters’ list with an address under Sideshwar Gaon Panchayat where my office is situated right now. I was reluctant and told the election officials that I already have my name registered as a voter in Kanaikuri Tea Garden under Haticherra Tea Estate, but, they didn’t pay much heed to it. In 1996, I voted for Assembly as well as general elections from Katigorah, but, in 1997 my name got enlisted again but with a changed address under Khatirail Goan Panchayat, as delimitation took place and with it, a D tag got attached to my name.”
In 1998, when Subhash Ree went to cast his vote during the general elections that had to be redone after a short-lived government under three Prime Ministers took charge in two years time (1996-98), without any rhyme or reason found a D-marking tag attached to his name which barred him from casting his vote. This saga has remained the same for the past 20 years now and he has not been given a chance to vote.
Advocate Dharmananda Deb, who is pleading for his case now, said, “Even after repeated appeals to various agencies including the Foreigners’ Tribunal, District Election Office and SP (Border) office in Cachar, none could give him an answer or show him the way to allow him to exercise his franchise being a genuine citizen of India. They have no answer as there is no record or any listing against his name in any of these offices.”
Advocate Deb, however, showed a ray of hope saying that the Gauhati High Court while disposing a writ petition (Civil) No/1288 of 2016, opined that, non-initiating of proceedings in Foreigners’ Tribunal long after such D-markings is, ‘unjustified’.