Hina passed her Class 10 exam in 2009, the year she turned 18. Soon after, in 2010, she married Habib Alam, a Muslim man and converted to Islam. Her father had been opposed to the marriage from the start. He threatened that if she went ahead with it, her family would never speak to her again. But Hina had stood firm. She packed her clothes and left, never to meet her family again.
After their wedding, Hina lived with Habib Alam’s family. They had a daughter who is now six. But things were not easy at Habib Alam’s house. His family too, were unhappy with their marriage but because their son was resolute, they had relented. Their relationship with Hina had always been strained and when Habib Alam went to Hyderabad to work, it got worse.
She finally moved out and now lives with her daughter, separate from her marital family. In the midst of all this, the NRC was underway and applications had been made for everyone including Hina. But when the final list was released, Hina’s name was missing. The names of her husband, her daughter Uzma and other members of his family were on it but hers had been left out.
For a woman, legacy has to be established on her parental side. All of Hina’s documents including her Class 10 certificate were with her parents. After years of silence, Hina contacted her father, Sujit Das, who refused to give her the certificate. He said they had burnt her documents just as they had burnt all bridges with her. Habib Alam’s family too kept their distance. It was something she would have to sort out with her paternal family.
Without the necessary documents, nothing could be done. She felt alone and abandoned. To her parents, she was as good as dead. Her husband was in another city hundreds of miles away and from his family she expected no support. She had thoughts where this might become a reason for Habib Alam to divorce her and marry someone who had made it to the NRC. Hina feared to imagine what would happen to her little daughter in case she was taken away to a dentention centre.
Her worries and concerns were no exception. By and large, women are the last people who are considered when claims to be added to the NRC are filed. Sometimes it is an error of omission, sometimes it is intentionally left out. In either case, women’s agency is limited from the stage of the application. Those who have married outside their religion or against the wishes of their families face the biggest problems.
Hina was desperate. She reached out for help to everyone she knew. Finally she was put in touch with a local lawyer and a youth group who had come together under the banner of Human Concerns Society.
They suggested filing an FIR for the loss of her Class 10 certificate so that Hina could apply to the board for a duplicate copy. How much time this would take was impossible to tell. Would she stand a chance in the Foreigners' Tribunal even if she were to find it? What else would she need to put together to convince the FT that she is Indian? Her conversion certificate? Her marriage certificate? Would these be of any significance? While she waits for the appeals process to begin, Hina’s mind is full of uncertainty and dread.