A year-long fight for inclusion in the Assam citizen list has left Hitesh Choudhury and his family distraught. He is one of the millions in Assam anxiously waiting for the final list of the National Register of Citizens, which will be published today.
The 45-year-old lives with his family in Chamaria town of Boko district, about two hours from Guwahati.
Last year, his name was left out when the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published.
Hitesh's wife Jagat Tara Choudhury was included in the first draft but objections have been raised to her inclusion. "We are under tremendous stress. If we are declared foreigners, what will our children do?" she asks.
The final NRC list will be published at 10 am today and nearly 41 lakh people are expected to be left out. Security has been tightened in Assam, with tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police posted across the north-eastern state bordering Bangladesh.
Hitesh says the future may be dim. "I am under extreme emotional stress. Every night, my wife tries to help me lower my blood pressure by applying cold oil. I have all valid documents yet I am not in the list and I really don't know what is the way forward. Will I be included? I can no longer trust this citizen list," he says.
A survey by a Delhi-based NGO recently found out that about 90 per cent of those who were excluded from the citizen list were suffering from extreme anxiety.
Children, too, are vulnerable.
"My father is often unwell. His blood pressure shoots up. In the village, we are often asked why his name is not in the NRC. We are worried," says five-year-old Janasmita Choudhury, Hitesh's younger daughter.
The elder one, 16-year-old Jonali Choudhury, is equally anxious. "We are among the millions who are on the edge. Children are on the verge of being separated from parents... some children have not been included in the citizen list," she says.
Today, millions - who call Assam their home - stare at an uncertain future.
The centre, however, has said people whose names don't appear in the final NRC cannot be declared foreigners till all legal options are exhausted. Every person left out of the NRC can appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal, and the time limit to file the appeal has been extended from 60 to 120 days.
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