The Telegraph
Friday , April 18 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

The curious case of Goalpara D-voters

(Top) The hut where Dipti lives and (below) Dipti shows the electoral roll. Pictures by UB Photos

The excitement of receiving voters’ photo-identity cards turned into dejection for 34-year-old Dipti Das and her husband when they came to know in February that they would not get their cards as they are “D” voters. Dipti had submitted photographs and other details when election officials had visited their home at Bishnu Nagar in Goalpara district last year.

“How can we be doubtful voters when all others in our family are not? We have voted all through but this time we will not be able to vote,” rued Dipti.

Goalpara falls under Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency.

For the first time this year, elector photo-identity cards were given to voters in Assam.

The Election Commission, during an intensive revision of electoral rolls in 1997 had, however, ordered that the letter “D” be written against names of those voters who failed to provide proof of their citizenship and their cases were referred to the 36 foreigners tribunals in the state. The “D” voters have been barred from casting their votes since then.

“But we voted even in the last Assembly elections. My father-in-law had his name in the 1966 electoral roll and three of my brothers-in-law, Nandalal, Radheshyam and Rajen, and their family members have got photo- identity cards. If they can vote, why can’t we?” asked Dipti, confusion clear on her face.

Dipti was born in Dolgona, about 40km away, and got married to Sadananda in 1998 after the demise of his first wife. Sadananda’s first wife had died after giving birth to a girl, who is now studying in Class XII. The couple have two more sons — both studying in Class IX.

Dipti said they had submitted land documents and others as “proof” of their Indian citizenship.

But how long they have been living here? Dipti rushed to her mother-in-law, Keromonibala Das, for an answer. “They (her husband Teluram Das) had migrated before Partition. They first lived in a sar (riverine) and shifted to a rented house after our marriage. In 1966, the government (Assam government) had given us this plot of land as an aid to refugees. Those living in this colony got land similarly,” said Keromonibala, aged about 75 years. Her husband had died 15 years ago. “Is it not madness that my second son has been stopped from voting now?” she asked.

Sadananda earns Rs 250 to Rs 300 by working as a carpenter. Dipti assists him by uncovering tamul (betel nuts).

“I get Rs 12 per 80 tamuls. I have no option as we have to bear education expenses of my children,” she said. Dipti is worried that her children might not be able to pursue higher studies or seek jobs after their education, as they don’t have voting rights now. “I had gone to our block level election officer but he asked me to submit an application after the Lok Sabha polls. Please do something so that we can vote this time,” said Dipti.

Like the Das couple, there are around 1.42 lakh voters who share the same fate: they can’t vote because of their “doubtful” tag.

Days before the Lok Sabha election notifications, the Assam government had announced that the Centre had decided to increase the number of foreigners tribunals from 36 to 100 for speedy trail of the pending cases of doubtful citizens in Assam, but for many “D” voters, the wait seems to be unending.