New Delhi: Releasing its report, “Assam’s NRC: Four Million Tales of Mental Torture, Trauma & Humiliation”, containing the survey on the state of mental health of those excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) stated that about 37 lakhs or 89% of over 41 lakhs excluded from the NRC have been suffering from extreme mental torture because of the fear of being identified as a foreigner and draconian consequences incidental thereto.
“Assam’s NRC: Four Million Tales of Mental Torture, Trauma & Humiliation” (Download the full report)
The “National Campaign Against Torture” (NCAT) conducted a field survey in Baksa, Goalpara and Kamrup (rural) districts of Assam from 16 to 20 July 2019 on the state of mental health of those excluded from the draft NRC. Out of the 91 respondents interviewed, 81 stated that they had been suffering from extreme (bahut) anxiety, inter alia, due to fear of the prospect of deportation, fear of separation from family members, and lack of money to appear before the Foreigners’ Tribunals or appeal before the High Court and the Supreme Court while nine have been suffering from moderate anxiety and only one person was suffering from mild anxiety. It means that 89% of the respondents were suffering from extreme anxiety, 10% were suffering from moderate anxiety and only 1% stated to be suffering from mild anxiety, causing sleep disorder, appetite loss, affecting thought process and work, and causing a feeling of shame and isolation.
“If a total of 41,10,169 persons stand excluded from the draft NRC at present, by extrapolating the survey conducted by the NCAT, it can be said that 36,99,152 persons were suffering from extreme anxiety and 4,11,017 persons were suffering from mild anxiety.”- stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Coordinator of the National Campaign Against Torture.
Out of the 91 respondents interviewed, all of them stated that they felt insulted/ashamed of being excluded from the draft NRC, 88 respondents stated that the fear family separation, 81 respondents stated that they fear deportation while 55 respondents stated that they are suffering from trauma and depression.
Out of the 91 respondents interviewed, 77 respondents stated that they have been suffering from sleep disorder as a result of anxiety, 37 respondents stated that it affected their eating habits /appetite loss, 22 respondents stated that it affected their thought process while 24 respondents stated that it affected their work.
“By national and international standards on mental torture, the NRC is a spectacularly cruel programme. Numerous studies across the world on immigration and deportation have shown that apart from often-lifelong physical effects, torture survivors suffer disproportionately from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, disassociation, disorientation and self-isolation.” – further stated Mr Chakma.
Majority of those who had given testimonies include who were excluded from the draft NRC despite already being declared as citizens by the Foreigners’ Tribunals and who have the legacy data prior to 24th March 1971.
The report also stated that extreme mental torture has forced at least 31 persons to commit suicide from 1.7.2015 to present.
Most of the victims who committed suicides belonged to extremely poor families. Extreme poverty and inability to hire lawyers have added to the woes of the family members who have been excluded from the draft NRC.
The poor victims who committed suicide include Aklima Bewa, a daily wage labourer; Anwar Hussain, daily wage labourer; Sahimoon Bibi, maid; Hanif Khan, a driver; Gopal Das, daily wage labourer; Balijan Bibi; Abola Roy, daily wage labourer; Rajesh Singh, labourer; Binay Chand; Deepak Debnath, a bicycle mechanic; Samsul Haque, daily wage labourer; Surendra Barman, a daily wage labourer; Bhaben Das, a daily wage labourer; and Noor Nehar Begum, a 17 years old minor whose father is a daily-wage labourer.
The report also stated that an overwhelming majority of the people have been excluded from the draft NRC because of the criminal negligence, dereliction of duty and biases of the NRC officials either of their own or interference of the non-state actors. Therefore, there were instances where father included in the draft NRC but children excluded; father excluded but children included using the documents of the father; one sibling included but another sibling of the same parents excluded; entire family members included but one member declared as a foreigner by the Foreigners Tribunal and excluded from the draft NRC; spelling errors of the father/grandfather in the legacy documents caused exclusion from the draft NRC; Foreigners Tribunals declared as citizens but the NRC officials refused to accept the verdict of the Foreigners Tribunal; people declared as a foreigner and kept in illegal detention because of mistaken identity and excluded from the draft NRC; persons born in Assam but parents hailing from other Indian States and therefore, excluded from the NRC because of the lack of legacy documents in Assam; and finally, even the descendants/ kin of freedom fighters, former President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, first Deputy Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly Moulavi Muhammad Amiruddin, and many other eminent personalities excluded from the draft NRC despite having the requisite legacy documents.
“As mental torture has been caused by the criminal negligence, dereliction of duty and biases of the NRC officials either of their own or interference of the non-state actors while preparing the draft NRC which forced many to take their own lives, there is a need for accountability and payment of compensation to the victims.” – also stated Mr Chakma.[Ends]