The impact of NRC in Assam has spread from Alipurduar to Malda, around 430km from the interstate border.
Gripped by worries over NRC and BJP leaders’ declarations that the exercise would be implemented in Bengal if the party came to power in the state, people from different walks of life in Malda are rushing to collect documents which can help them prove their citizenship.
So deep are the fears that officials are leaving no stone unturned to convince the concerned residents that the ongoing process of applying or amending the ration cards or the verification of voters’ particulars has nothing to do with NRC.
Serpentine queues of panic-stricken people at all 15 block development offices are hard to escape attention.
While thousands of people with grim faces are waiting to get them enrolled for ration cards or to correct their particulars, other thousands are knocking doors of administrative offices to get a copy of the electors’ list prior to March 24, 1971.
Those, who so far have neglected tiny mistakes on documents like voter and Aadhar cards, are rushing to get those corrected by obtaining affidavits from first class magistrates.
Many are approaching their alma maters to obtain a copy of school leaving certificates as proof of their dates of birth.
Although the worry has largely hit the minority population that surpasses the Hindus in six out of 12 assembly constituencies of Malda, the Hindus are no less jittery.
“Initially, three counters were opened for applicants of ration cards. But we are now running seven counters to receive applications from the surging crowd,” said Sandip Ghosh, the block development officer of Kaliachak-I.
It may be mentioned that Malda shares nearly 170 kilometre long border with Bangladesh in six out of its 15 blocks. The BJP has a presence in four such blocks and two MLAs .
Along with the administration, political parties have also started making moves to aware people on the issue.
“A large section of minority people are reeling under scare as BJP leaders are speaking in threatening tones and reiterating that NRC would be implemented in Bengal. We have already sought a copy of the voters’ list prior to March 24, 1971 from the administration so that these anxious people can be helped to some extent. Congress will also hold a public meeting in Sujapur on September 27 to eradicate fear about NRC,” said Isha Khan Choudhury, the Congress Sujapur MLA of
However, no assurance has seemingly succeeded in assuring people.
Ziaur Rahman, a resident of Harischandrapur II block, has been running from one office to another to collect documents necessary for “inclusion in NRC.”
“My father was not careful about papers. I have recently found that the date of birth of my younger brother, who is with Indian Army, shows that he is older than me by six months. Such mistakes may put me in trouble and thus, I am trying for rectification,” Rahman said.
Ali Reza, a peasant living in Kaliachak II block rushed to the madrasah he left 26 years ago to get a copy of his school-leaving certificate.
“It would be required for NRC I have heard from some elders of the village,” he said.
The BJP however, continues to be vocal on NRC “Our stand is clear. The infiltrators must leave the country and the valid citizens have nothing to worry,” said Gobinda Mandal, the district BJP president.
The administration admitted rumours are rife. “It is true rumours are making rounds. We are trying our best to assure people. Officials have been asked to provide the voters’ list prior to March 24, 1971 available at our record room to those who want it,” said Kaushik Bhattacharya, the district magistrate of Malda.