The final draft of the National Register of Citizens, a list of Assam’s Indian citizens, was published on 31 August. The Supreme Court-monitored exercise excluded more than nineteen lakh individuals from the final list. They will now have to prove their Indian citizenship before the state’s Foreigners Tribunals, quasi-judicial bodies that adjudicate on the citizenship of suspected illegal immigrants.
A little over a month before the list was released, Zishaan A Latif, a photographer, traveled through four districts in Assam, documenting the arduous struggle for inclusion in the NRC. Most of the people he met were poor Muslims who did not understand the NRC process and had been excluded from the first two drafts of the list, published in December 2017 and July 2018. In some cases, despite possessing legacy data which proved their Indian ancestry through the accepted pre-1971 documents, they faced the prospect of being sent to detention centres. “Detention camp ke bare mein jab sunta hun toh aise hi aansu nikala ati hai”—Whenever I hear about the detention camp, I start to cry—Mohammad Nawab Ali, a resident of Darrang district, said.
Mohammad Nawob Ali and Mohammad Abdul Ali