Assam: The Curious Case of Phuljan Nessa

Phuljan Nessa, resident of Samaguri in Nagaon district of Assam was declared a foreigner by the Foreigners Tribunal in October 2017, yet her name was included in the final draft of the NRC. NRC issued a clarification on their Facebook page without accepting the blunder.


The Gauhati High Court, while entertaining a Writ petition against a Foreigners Tribunal order, observed in its order dated October 31 that the petitioner, Phuljan Nessa was declared a foreigner by the Tribunal but her name appeared in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Therefore, the High Court has sought information from the State Co-ordinator of NRC, Assam regarding this obvious contradiction and posted the matter for November 5.

The order can be read here.

Phuljan Nessa was declared foreigner of post 1971 stream by the Foreigners Tribunal through its order dated October 25, 2017. Phuljan had then filed the writ petition before the Gauhati High Court in November 2017. October 31 was only the second hearing of the case where information of this contradiction came to light and was pointed out to the High Court. 

Citing this order of the HC, local media reports in newspapers like the Assam-based Sangbad Pratidin sensationalised the issue. In response to this, the NRC posted an announcement issued in the “public interest” on its Facebook page:

Before the next date of hearing, just two days away, crucial questions remain: 
—Was the declared foreigner’s name really included in the NRC? If yes then what lead to this blunder? 
—Why did the NRC make the above announcement? If थे NRC’s announcement on FB is based on facts, then how did the High Court make such an observation?
Such an anomaly, if there exists one at all, is not the is first of its kind.
Not long back, there was the similar case of AhmedAliwho was a “declared foreigner“. Yet, his name was included in the first draft of the NRC. At that time the State co-ordinator for NRC, Prateek Hajela had admitted NRC’s fault and attributed it to the receipt of incomplete information from border branch of Assam police.
It is when such incongruities come to light that both the competence and fairness of the NRC are brought into question. Today, 19,06,657 people of Assam who have been excluded from the final draft of the NRC are now struggling to deal with the process of standing before the Foreigners Tribunals to prove their citizenship. There is more than a distinct possibility that many of these people are genuine Indian citizens, made victims of a manipulated and callous bureaucratic-political exercise. Will they ever get justice? The road ahead for them is full of hurdles which will take years to cross. 

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