ASOTA Testimony: Sumaiya Khatun

Sumaiya Khatun’s son was dropped from the National Register of Citizens. She spent a lot of money in the process of inclusion.

*All names and personal details have been changed or beeped to protect the survivors’ identity.spent three and a half years in a detention centre in Assam.

Q- Do you have any objection if we record your interview?

A- No, I have no objection. But if it requires money then where do I get the money when I receive the notice? I was in tension; after ablution, when I started praying Namaz, my clothes became wet with my tears. I prayed to Allah that only you can save me now, who will give me more money, I have spent Rs. 60-70 thousand, in two cases I had to spend Rs. 3 lacs, 1.5 lacs each. 

Q- What is your name?

A- My name is [BEEP].

Q- Where is your birthplace?

A- [BEEP].

Q- Which district?

A- [BEEP].

Q- Do you remember any childhood memories from your birthplace?

A- I remember that we were displaced by river erosion; we had to go through a lot of trouble. As you know that our people get married earlier, I was also married at a very early age. I have 7 children, my husband died when my younger daughter was 3 years old, and my two sons were reading in class V/VI at that time, we are now going through very hard times, we have no lands, there is no way of livelihood, death seems to be the easier path for me now, sometimes I think about hanging myself or take poison, but I can’t commit suicide because for my sin, my while family may be in Hell. I prayed to Allah that if you don’t save me then there is no one who can protect me now. 

Q- When did you learn about NRC?

A- I learned about NRC 7/8 years ago. 

Q- How has the NRC affected your family?

A- NRC affected my family a lot. We have spent a lot of money that is more than 25-30 thousand, we had to travel to different places to collect documents, often government also do not accept those documents, government is such now that they do not like this, and our Muslims are facing more harassment, we have to write in documents, we have a lot of documents. You can see our documents. 

Q- For how long did you have to travel for an NRC hearing?

A- Rani in Guwahati, that place is called Dakhyin Par, I had to travel to Rani in Guwahati after I went to Bhumi, Chaigaon. I had to travel to Rani from Revenue office. I had to go through a lot of trouble; I stopped eating food. The destination was not within walking distance, so we had to travel a lot by vehicle, like the 70-80 Miles distance we had to cover. Many times, I cried a lot sitting on the roadside. This was our pain during the time of hearing. 

Q- You rented a vehicle for your journey?

A- Yes, we went to Dakhyin Par in a rented vehicle, from there we had to travel to Guwahati for which the fare was Rs. 200. 

Q- In a single day?

A- Yes, for two people Rs. 200 each, this equals to Rs. 400. And when [COVID] lockdown started, people had no other way than to die. 

Q- Did your name appear in NRC?

A- No, my name was not in the previous list, but now my name appeared in NRC.

Q- Have you received any notice from FT (Foreigner’s Tribunal)?

A- No, I have not received any notice yet, but I am in tension. My sister-in-law got a notice, my sister got a notice, so maybe at any time I may also receive a notice. I feel unwell when I think about that. 

Q- Was there any FT case in your name?

A- Yes, my elder son has D in his name, which has not been removed yet. I think a lot about my son. 

Q- Was there any case in your name?

A- No, there is no case for me.

Q- Was there any case in your name?

A- Yes, there was a case in my name, at that time I was not Indian but now I am Indian. 

Q- How did you feel when you received a notice from FT and you were asked to be present with your documents?

A- I was shocked with deep sorrow, how can a man walk so long, I am already sick, I sometimes fell down while walking on the road, and roads were sandy. So I stayed in some other places for a week and attended the hearing. Thus it was really a very difficult time for me during the NRC hearing. 

Q- How difficult was it for you when there was an FT case in your name?

A- I was unable to take food at that time; I had to consume water only. My elder daughter-in-law can tell you about this, I had no intention to take rice; we couldn’t decide on the money which we will use for the case or medicine of Diabetes, gastric, liver disease and like so many other diseases, I am very sick and a weak person, I couldn’t eat food, I lived on drinking water only, I had to eat only panta rice (one-day old boiled rice). 

Q- Where did you get the money you have for your FT case?

A- We had to sell two cows we had, we borrowed money on interest, which we are unable to repay yet. We still have a debt of Rs. 80-90 thousand. Where will we get the money to repay the debt? My elder son is working as a daily wage labourer in Guwahati, and he has to do fishing work in a Khal (canal) under an owner. My elder son stays at a shop of iron tools, everyone knows this, you can ask anyone. Our debt remains unpaid till date, no one takes responsibility. 

Q- Have you got any help from anyone or any NGOs?

A- No, no one helped us with a single penny. Many people get pension of Rs. 3000-4000 but I am not benefited with any such schemes. We borrowed money only on interest. Today, if you visit my home then you will see that I have no house to live in. After our house is broken we couldn’t make a new one, how do we make a new house, we are unable to repay the debts till date. How can we clear the debts of Rs. 3-4 lacs, is it possible to clear this debt by working as a daily wage labourer! We do not have lands, we have to buy rice to eat, when we can buy rice then we can eat otherwise we go hungry.

Q- When you went to FT at that time COVID or lockdown started or not?

A- COVID started soon after my case was closed.

Q- You mean, Lockdown started after your case is closed?

A- Yes.

Q- You had to spend a lot of money for the case; you had no way of earning during the time of Lockdown, so how did you pass time during the Lockdown?

A- My elder son worked in a Bolero as a daily wage labourer, what can be done except that. Whatever money he has earned, we were dependent on that. Not a single person helped us. I didn’t ask for help from anyone, but by folding my hands to Allah, I told that you have to help me. People eat full stomachs. I will eat less, but you have to help me.

Q- Are you vaccinated?

A- Yes, I am vaccinated.

Q- With both doses?

A- No, I have taken the first dose. 

Q- Was it free of cost or you were charged money?

A- It was free.