Reethu, a story teller, a person often found between the pages of a book or contemplating the nuances of life.
Despite producing as many as fifteen documents including voter lists of four years, a parent's NRC clearance, and land revenue payment receipts, the Gauhati High Court rejected a 50-year-old woman's citizenship claims, stating that these documents cannot be used to show proof of citizenship.
Jabeda Begum alias Jabeda Khatun, from Assam's Baksa district, was declared a "foreigner" by a Foreigners Tribunal in May 2019. Challenging the order, she had then filed a petition in the High Court. However, in an order dated February 12, a bench of Justices comprising of Manojit Bhuyan and Parthivjyoti Saikia dismissed Begum's plea stating that she "failed to prove her linkage with her projected parents and her projected brother."
Referring to a 2016 judgement by the same court, the HC also ruled that PAN card and bank documents cannot be used as proof of citizenship.
"This court... has already held that PAN card and bank documents are not proof of citizenship. Land revenue-paying receipts do not prove citizenship of a person. Therefore, we find that the tribunal has correctly appreciated the evidence placed before it…" the HC said.
To prove their citizenship for inclusion in National Register of Citizens(NRC), applicants had to submit documents issued before March 24, 1971, which included either their names or names of their ancestor to prove residence in Assam up to that date. Those who came to Assam after the said date have to prove their citizenship in the Foreign Tribunals.
At the tribunal, Begum had submitted 15 documents, including a certificate issued by the village chief declaring her father's identity and her husband's identity. Yet, her plea was dismissed.
"I spent whatever I had. Now I am left with no more resources for legal battle," Begum told NDTV.
Begum's ordeal echoes the worries of several others in Assam who have failed to prove their citizenship. In the NRC exercise carried out in Assam in August last year, 19 lakh applicants (of the 3.3 crore who applied) were excluded from the final list. Across Assam, hundreds of foreigners' tribunals have been set up to review the cases of those left out.
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