The Assam State Oral Testimonies Archive or ‘ASOTA’ is a collection of first-hand narratives from Assam that map first-hand experiences of individuals who went through Assam’s multi-pronged citizenship determination regime. Four pillars make up this regime: Foreigners Tribunal (FT), Doubtful-Voter (D-Voter) classification system, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and detention centres.
Through ASOTA, we seek to bring to the fore the experiences of two sets of individuals affected by these processes – survivors and lawyers.
The survivors are those who went through the rigours of these interlocking processes. Many of them fell through the cracks and were forced to live a life of confinement, deprivation and emotional trauma. Many of their stories also feature the unique context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which only compounded their marginalisation.
The lawyers who offered their testimonies took up the cases of survivors at the FTs or mainstream courts. Their accounts provide an intricate lowdown on the various politico-legal aspects of the citizenship determination regime as well as the real-life experience of defending those accused of being ‘illegal foreigners’ at the FTs. By doing so, they offer a glimpse into the complex, and arguably arbitrary, legal framework that shapes citizenship and legal belongingness in Assam.
We are immensely grateful to the survivors and lawyers for willingly giving us their testimonies, despite the trauma and grief associated with retelling their stories. We hope that their accounts will help others understand the exact size and scope of the citizenship crisis in Assam. We also thank our interviewers and facilitators who went out to the field to collect the testimonies despite regular and irregular hardships, such as floods and pandemic-related restrictions.
For any comments, questions and general feedback on the series, please feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The names of all interviewees have been changed and other personal details redacted in the audio testimonials to protect their identity.
Assamese/Bengali-to-English transcription and translations by Moheet Aslam.
Listen to all the testimonials by clicking on the categories below:
Also watch our short documentary from September 2021 on former detainees in Assam: