Testimony Of
Jaygen Nessa and Jangsher Ali

On the 7th of November, 2019, our team visited the home of Jaygen Nessa. A widow in her early 50s, Jaygen spoke to us about her late husband, Jangsher Ali.

For over three decades, beginning in 1970, Jangsher Ali had cast his vote regularly. In 2005, however, his name was registered incorrectly on the voters' list – as Dasher instead of Jangsher. He was designated a doubtful voter and his name was tagged with a ‘D’.

That same year, no longer able to exercise his right to vote, he filed an appeal in the Foreigner's Tribunal (FT) court.  Apart from his own name being misspelt, there were discrepancies in his father’s name and age. His father, who was listed as Alep Ali in the 1966 list, read as Alek Ali in the 2009 registry. The year of his birth should have been listed as 1950, but seemed to be one or two years off. Based on this, the court declared him a foreigner.

The family attempted to bring the case before the state High Court, with the hope of challenging the verdict. The High Court, however, refused to hear it, as is often the case with such appeals.

Despite submitting the same documents for their father who served as the legacy person for all of them, most of Jangsher’s siblings made it to the final list. As relatives and neighbours observed, “Jiska bhai behan bhi Indian hai, vo kaise foreigner ho sakta hai?” ("How is it possible for somebody whose sisters and brothers are Indian to be a foreigner?"). Neither Jaygen nor their two sons made it to the list, while both her daughters-in-law did.

The family sold nearly everything they owned in order to make it to the hearings – they even pawned the meagre two bigha of land they owned. Now they work as agricultural labour on others’ farms.

On the 13th of October 2019, Jangsher Ali took his own life.

Jangsher’s niece, Asiya Khatun, 38, is one of the people from their family whose name has been included in the final NRC list. She was required to attend two hearings. Asiya is married to a Hindu man who works as a driver. Her father-in-law was in the Border Security Force.

Being one of the few educated women in the village, she helps people access state and government services. Lately she's been helping with filing applications and paperwork for the updating of the NRC. When asked about her uncle Jangsher, she says, “If somebody has had everything taken away from them, been forced to sell all of their possessions and live in fear, what other alternative could they possibly have but to take their own lives?”