Citizenship Tangle

As Assam publishes first list of verified citizens, dejection as many fail to find their names

At one Lower Assam seva kendra, most people had been left out of the partial draft of the National Register of Citizens released at midnight on Dec 31.

On the morning of January 1, a crowd huddled around Nurul Islam as he pored over a document. This was at the Matia revenue circle of Lower Assam’s Goalpara district. For the uninitiated, it was just another Monday morning in a rural government office: visibly disempowered people waiting anxiously around a bureaucrat.

But this was no regular Monday. Islam, a mid-level government official, is the assistant local registrar of the Citizenship Register at the National Register of Citizens Seva Kendra Serial Number 20. The document he was scanning was a copy of the partial draft of the much-awaited National Register of Citizens, being updated for the first time since 1951. It was released on the midnight of December 31, after being in the works for over seven years.

A ‘partial list’

The draft is a truncated list of all citizens of the state, defined by the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which prescribed that anyone who can prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before the midnight of March 24, 1971, will be counted as a citizen. The stated aim of the exercise is to identify all “genuine citizens” living in Assam and root out “illegal immigrants”.

The partial draft verified that 1.9 crore of the 3.29 crore individuals who applied to be included in the register were citizens of India. The rest of the names are yet to be verified. No one at this stage has been declared to be an illegal migrant – whom the process seeks to identify and eventually deport.

Goalpara, like other districts in Lower Assam, has a large population of Bengali Muslims, a group often branded as “illegal Bangladashi migrants” in the state. Just a district away from the Bangladesh border, Goalpara has seen anxieties related to this massive counting exercise over in the past year.

Mixed news

Islam had mixed news for the first name he identified in the crowd, a farmer called Jalaluddin. “Three in, three out,” said the soft-spoken bureaucrat to Jalaluddin. Among the six members of the farmer’s family, the names of three featured on the list. Jalaluddin allowed himself a faint smile. “There is nothing to worry about,” he said. “This is only the partial draft. We have been told that the names will come in the next one, and, why won’t they? We have all our documents.”

Next up was Zakir Hussain. “Only one,” Islam told Hussain, without looking up.

“Just one?” asked a slightly-surprised Hussain, gesturing to Islam to recheck. Islam scanned the document once again but his answer did not change.

“Only one of 13,” conceded Hussain, slightly disappointed. “But there is the second list so it is okay.”

Mani Das echoed Hussain. His name was on the list, but not his wife’s. “They have said it will come next time,” he said.

Mujibur Rahman, an e-rickshaw driver whose name also did not feature on the list, also sounded nonchalant: “If not this time, then next time,” he said. “No point worrying about these things when you have your documents.”

Checking the list at a seva kendra in Goalpara district. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).
Checking the list at a seva kendra in Goalpara district. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).

More men than women

The drill continued through the afternoon – people trickled in to the seva kendra, furnished their application receipts, and Islam patiently scanned the document in front of him. Though most people found their names were not there, their dejection was tinged with the hope that this was only a temporary setback.

It helped that most families – though, not all – had at least one person on the list. “We have a verification rate of around 26% here,” said Islam. “So, names are bound to be missing. This centre covers a population of around 13,000 and only 3,511 people have been verified.”

An overwhelming percentage of these 3,511 people are men. This is because most women in the area – like many other rural parts of the state – had submitted village panchayat certificates as proof of ancestry. The document’s legal sanctity was upheld only on December 5 by the Supreme Court after the Guwahati High Court declared it invalid in February. The partial draft does not include any of the women who had submitted village panchayat certificates with their applications, as these certificates are being re-verified as per the apex court’s order.

So Deepali Dey was not surprised to find her name missing. “All the men in the family are there, but my daughters and daughters-in-law are not there,” she said. “My sons have told me our names will come later.”

Deepali Dey.  (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).
Deepali Dey. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).

Beneath the calm

This even-tempered response to the list, however, was not always a given, particularly in Goalpara. In the days leading up to the publication of the draft, the state government stepped up security in certain sensitive districts across the state, fearing a backlash by those who find their names missing from the list. Goalpara was one of the districts in which Central forces were deployed. In 2017, the district saw two episodes of violence linked to the contentious illegal migration issue.

In July, a Muslim man called Yakub Ali was shot dead by the Assam police in Goalpara district during a protest against the alleged harassment of Muslims by the state. The protestors claimed that the state had falsely accused them of being illegal migrants. A few months before that, a judge of the Goalpara foreigners’ tribunal – special courts in Assam that decide matters relating to nationality – was roughed up after a dispute over a case of contested nationality.

Despite there being a palpable feeling of persecution among Goaplara’s large minority population, officials and local activists say that Monday’s calm could be attributed to two reasons. First, the two recent Supreme Court orders upholding the use of panchayat certificates and quashing any special “original inhabitant” category in the list.

Second, an elaborate media campaign by the government explaining that the first list is only a partial draft, and that missing names did not necessarily imply that they have been left out altogether.

‘Sick of being called Bangladeshi’

Yet fears persist. Samsul Haque, hardened by his bitter experiences, is less than optimistic. Haque was declared a doubtful voter in 1997. D-voters are a category of individuals in Assam who were disfranchised by the Election Commission, because they had failed to produce legal documents of citizenship. In 2015, however, the Goalpara Foreigners’ Tribunal ruled that he was wrongfully implicated. “They said I was an Indian, but what about the humiliation I and my family faced everywhere for almost 20 years?” asked Haque.

Samsul Haque. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).
Samsul Haque. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).

No one from Haque’s family featured in the draft released on Monday. “They are saying our names will come, but what if they do not?” he asked. “We are sick of being called Bangladeshis everywhere. We just want our names to be included so that we can live a life of dignity.”

Haque lives in the locality where Yakub Ali was shot dead in July. Residents here, still recovering from the murder, have little patience for the second list. Their fears have been amplified by the fact that less than 25% of the area’s population have made it to the first partial draft. “If there is one thing we could ask from Allah, it is the inclusion of our names in the NRC [National Register of Citizens],” said the area’s panchayat head Syed Ali. “Everything else will be fine automatically then.”

People assemble to discuss the exclusion of names in a village in Assam's Goalpara district. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).
People assemble to discuss the exclusion of names in a village in Assam's Goalpara district. (Photo credit: Arunabh Saikia).
We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Why should inclusion matter to companies?

It's not just about goodwill - inclusivity is a good business decision.

To reach a 50-50 workplace scenario, policies on diversity need to be paired with a culture of inclusiveness. While diversity brings equal representation in meetings, board rooms, promotions and recruitment, inclusivity helps give voice to the people who might otherwise be marginalized or excluded. Inclusion at workplace can be seen in an environment that values diverse opinions, encourages collaboration and invites people to share their ideas and perspectives. As Verna Myers, a renowned diversity advocate, puts it “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Creating a sense of belonging for everyone is essential for a company’s success. Let’s look at some of the real benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

Better decision making

A whitepaper by Cloverpop, a decision making tool, established a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance. The research discovered that teams that followed an inclusive decision-making process made decisions 2X faster with half the meetings and delivered 60% better results. As per Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino, this report highlights how diversity and inclusion are practical tools to improve decision making in companies. According to her, changing the composition of decision making teams to include different perspectives can help individuals overcome biases that affect their decisions.

Higher job satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is connected to a workplace environment that values individual ideas and creates a sense of belonging for everyone. A research by Accenture identified 40 factors that influence advancement in the workplace. An empowering work environment where employees have the freedom to be creative, innovative and themselves at work, was identified as a key driver in improving employee advancement to senior levels.


A research by stated the in India, 62% of innovation is driven by employee perceptions of inclusion. The study included responses from 1,500 employees from Australia, China, Germany, India, Mexico and the United States and showed that employees who feel included are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, suggest new and innovative ways of getting work done.

Competitive Advantage

Shirley Engelmeier, author of ‘Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage’, in her interview with Forbes, talks about the new global business normal. She points out that the rapidly changing customer base with different tastes and preferences need to feel represented by brands. An inclusive environment will future-proof the organisation to cater to the new global consumer language and give it a competitive edge.

An inclusive workplace ensures that no individual is disregarded because of their gender, race, disability, age or other social and cultural factors. Accenture has been a leading voice in advocating equal workplace. Having won several accolades including a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate equality index, Accenture has demonstrated inclusive and diverse practices not only within its organisation but also in business relationships through their Supplier Inclusion and Diversity program.

In a video titled ‘She rises’, Accenture captures the importance of implementing diverse policies and creating an inclusive workplace culture.


To know more about inclusion and diversity, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Accenture and not by the Scroll editorial team.