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Citizens’ Anxiety Aggravator

Citizens’ Anxiety Aggravator

The spectre of the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is haunting people across Bengal cutting across religions, communities, income status and age groups.

Last week’s stampede-like situation at the head post-office in Malda, where people had turned up in large numbers to get Aadhaar cards done or rectify errors, reflected the panic over the new citizenship matrix.

The Telegraph on Friday caught up with a cross-section of people in queues to get identity documents rectified:

MURSHIDABAD

Name: Surabaddin Molla, 34

Resident of: Gangadhari village, Nowda

Vocation: Mason based in Indore

Monthly income: Rs 15,000-20,000

Time lost: Three months to get voter card rectified and the wait is still on

Cost of waiting: Rs 50,000 (approximately)

Reason for scare: Mismatch in the way his name has been spelt in his Aadhaar and voter cards. He fears if he does not rectify this, he might land up in a detention camp. Molla has had to stay put at his village in the past three months to get the rectification done. “I am losing income, but can’t help as getting the rectification done is more important,” he said.

DARJEELING

Name: Sylvester Chettri, 65

Resident of: 10, Kutchery Road

Vocation: Retired from a private job

Monthly income: Rs 2,000

Time lost: Multiple visits to the local post-office to get Aadhaar card rectified

Cost of waiting: From travelling to Siliguri when the rectification centre in Darjeeling was non-functional to staying there, Chhetri has spent more than Rs 1,500.

Reason for scare: The error has been there from the beginning. “Now because of talks about the CAA and the NRC, I am trying to get my documents updated and corrected. The talk about detention camps has left me a bit scared and I want all my papers in order,” Chettri said.

COOCH BEHAR

Name: Aleya Khatun, 32

Resident of: Posharihat village, 15km from Cooch Behar town

Vocation: Homemaker

Monthly income: Rs 12,000 (family’s earnings)

Time lost: One hour. She had earlier visited the head post-office in Cooch Behar town to get her Aadhaar card corrected but the authorities had asked her to come on Friday

Cost of waiting: Rs 400 plus travel expenses as her husband, a contractual transport employee, had to accompany her and miss duty

Reason for scare: “I have learnt that people in Assam are staying in detention camps because of errors in their documents,” said Khatun. She said BJP leaders’ repeated assertions that the NRC-CAA would be implemented in Bengal had made her apprehensive.

Lutfunnesha with her Aadhaar card
Lutfunnesha with her Aadhaar cardPictures by Soumya De Sarkar & Biplab Basak

MALDA

Name: Lutfunnesha, 25

Resident of: Budhia village, Englishbazar

Vocation: Bidi worker

Monthly income: Rs 5,000

Time lost: 3 hours

Cost of waiting: Lost one day’s earning and also missed a tailoring training from where she gets a stipend as she had to queue up at the head post-office in Malda town for rectifications in her Aadhaar card. In total, she lost Rs 400

Reasons for scare: “The NRC might harm minorities. All facilities and subsidies might stop,” she said.

Satish Chandra Roy
Satish Chandra Roy

JALPAIGURI

Name: Satish Chandra Roy, 70

Resident of: Purba Barogila

Vocation: Farmer

Monthly income: Rs 9,000

Time lost: 4 hours

Cost of waiting: Felt sick while standing in the queue at the head post-office in Jalpaiguri to correct his name in his Aadhaar card. Also, he could not monitor agricultural work on his field

Reasons for scare: “I felt it necessary to get my name corrected for me and my family members. Some neighbours told me that my descendants will have to furnish my details to prove their citizenship,” Roy said.

Siliguri

Name: Pintu Das, 30

Resident: Ashighar

Vocation: Employee in a garment shop

Monthly income: Rs 4,000

Time lost: He hd been in the queue since 10am at the head post-office in Siliguri to get his Aadhaar card done. At 12.30am, he was told he might have to stand till 4pm

Cost of waiting: Had to lose a day’s earning and commission

Reason for scare: “My friends, family members, neighbours and relatives have Aadhaar cards. Now that we are hearing about the CAA and NRC, I felt I must get my card done so that I have all necessary documents,” said Das

ALIPURDUAR

Name: Bablu Roy, 39

Resident of: Baburhat

Vocation: Site-in-charge at a construction company

Monthly income: Rs 15,000

Time lost: Over 2 hours

Cost of waiting: He was supposed to take his daughter to hospital but could not as he had to be at the post-office in Alipurduar to get his Aadhaar card done

Reason of scare: “I have been hearing that the Aadhaar is a valuable document of citizenship,” Roy said.

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