A number of accounts of people in Sibsagar, Jorhat and Dibrugarh districts helping people from areas in Lower Assam summoned there for National Register of Citizens re-verification hearing have come to light, The Telegraph reported.

Most of those summoned were Bengali-speaking Muslims from lower Assam districts, and had to travel around 400 km to attend these hearings. Many of them have never been to state capital Guwahati but now they are travelling miles and bearing hardships for the hearings.

Bahatan Khanam, 35, from the remote Dakhin Godhani village in Barpeta district in Lower Assam received the notice on Monday. She had to attend the hearing in Sarupathar in Golaghat district the following day after covering more than 400 km.

“We were completely at a loss,” she told The Telegraph. “We felt like it was the end of our world. We had not much money left. The recent floods washed away our houses. I did not think that we could attend the hearings. But I am thankful to the Almighty for sending angels in the form of humans. Without the help of some people, many of whom we have never met before, we could not have attended the hearings.”

People are sheltering strangers, offering them food, water and basic amenities, and even helping those who have to appear for the hearings find their venues. “We are proud of them,” said Shalim M Hussain, a young writer of Boko in Kamrup (rural) district. “They are the heroes of this tragedy and their love and affection will be remembered with great fondness.”

Senior All India United Democratic Front leader Aminul Islam became emotional while talking to Pratidin Time about the generosity shown by people and district administration to those in need of help. “I have no words for this civil society of Jorhat and Sibsagar,” he said. “District administration of both the districts has gone out of their way to help up. Especially the ADC Jayanta Goswami was so helpful. Our people were so happy. They opened the staff bathroom and even got them cleaned. They provided medication. These people had no problem whatsoever.” He pointed out that many of those who had travelled to Upper Assam had never met people from the region in their life.

Assam is currently updating its National Register of Citizens, which aims to sift genuine Indians living in the state from undocumented migrants. Four million people were left out of the draft register published in July last year. They were allowed to file fresh citizenship claims and appear in hearings to defend themselves. The NRC authorities also held hearings to re-examine the inclusion of those who faced objections from others.

The final NRC is expected to be released on August 31. The earlier deadline of July 31 was pushed back after the state and central governments filed petitions in the Supreme Court, asking for another round of verification of the draft list. The court extended the deadline but rejected the request for re-verification. It cited a sealed report submitted by Prateek Hajela, state coordinator for the NRC, which reportedly said 27% of the names in the July 2018 draft – about 80 lakh people – had already been reverified during the “claims and objection process”.

“You can kill democracy but you cannot kill humanity,” Bondita Acharya of Jorhat, who is assisting people visiting the district for the hearings, told The Telegraph. “It is great to see locals of Mariani, Amguri and Jorhat, among others, come forward to give food to people who have come for NRC hearings from hundreds of miles away.”

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Panic in Assam as people rush to attend NRC re-verification hearings on 24-hour notice