Najma Khatoon is barely 21 years old. She used to live with her in-laws and husband in two 10×10 ft rooms constructed out of corrugated iron sheets in a squalid slum on railway land in the Dhubri district of Assam. On 10 April 2018, she got the shock of her life when she opened the door to the room where her in-laws lived, to give a cup of tea to her mother-in-law, Shahimoon Bibi. She found Shahimoon Bibi hanging in the small room. She had committed suicide.
Shahimoon Bibi’s parents came from Bihar decades ago, during 1950s, and had settled in Dhubri. There were many of them, skilled and semi-skilled construction labourers. Their children were born there and had never known Bihar. Shahimoon bibi and her siblings too were born in Dhubri and had grown up there. She married a local Muslim man and her two sons have grown up in Dhurbi. They speak no Hindi/Bhojpuri.
In 2015, Shahimonn Bibi and her husband, Khairul Alom applied for the NRC like millions of others in Assam. Soon after, however, a notice from the Foreigners Tribunal was served on her. She was suspected to be an “illegal Bangladeshi immigrant” and it was demanded that she proves her citizenship. This distressed the acutely impoverished Muslim family that barely ekes out a living. Still, her sister went to their ancestral village in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and managed to obtain land documents that proved that her father was indeed an Indian. The documents were in Hindi. The FT in Assam refused to accept them and declared her a “foreigner”. Acutely distressed as they were now deep in debt because they had borrowed money to fight the case which they lost, Shahimoon Bibi committed suicide to spare her family from having to borrow more to fight the case in the High Court.
Less than four months later when the draft NRC was published, it included her name as “indian” as the documents that had been submitted were verified as genuine by the Bihar Government.
This is how India’s laws and judiciary are killing its religious minorities.
From the wall of Nilim Dutta