Morium Begum, 53, clutches an Identification Card of some kind as she tells us of her experience of the updating of the NRC, her six-year-old grandchild clinging to her the whole while.
Morium Begum was required to attend three NRC hearings. Like many in the region against whose names objections were filed, she received only one day's notice for the third hearing. On that very same day, her husband and children were also summoned to a hearing, but given that the family-tree traces paternal legacy, Morium had to travel to a different hearing centre.
Like many women who were married young, this was one of the first times she was leaving home without her husband and children. For many such women, the prospect of having to travel to hearings either alone or with estranged families was extremely daunting. Several women our team met, shared stories of how husbands and parents fought over whose responsibility it would be to bear the costs of their travel to hearing centres.
Morium Begum however, was one of the luckier ones; there was no such discord, and she was able to travel with members of her paternal family who had managed to hire a private vehicle to make it to the hearing at such short notice.
Joynal Abdin, Morium’s husband, is a teacher in his 60s. Like Morium, this was his third hearing. Joynal has had a long career as a teacher. He ran a venture school for eight years which he supported largely through their income from breeding pigeons and cultivating land. Marginal populations in this region have had to provide for themselves, what is in fact, the responsibility of the State.
Joynal's however, is a rare case of someone who went from being a venture school teacher supporting himself, to being a teacher on the government pay-roll. For 28 years now, he has been teaching Social Sciences to high-school students.
Joynal’s family’s hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. on the 6th of August, 2019. They had received a notice for this hearing on the night of the 5th. The centre for the hearing was about 500 kilometres from their village. The family scrambled to arrange for transport at the last minute. It cost them over 40,000 rupees but they managed to share a hired bus that was set to leave at 11 p.m. on the night of the 5th. 21 other members of the family – all of whom shared the same legacy person, Joynal’s father, travelled together.
On their way back from the hearing, Morium and her family had a minor accident – the car door had come off, so they were forced to stop to take stock of the damage. Morium got a phone call – the bus that Joynal and their children were on, had been in an accident as well. Both their daughters had been killed on the spot. Morium fainted when she heard the news.
There were a total of 45 people on the bus, and several sustained fractures or serious injuries. Joynal and his brother Darbesh were taken to Patna in Bihar for treatment. Joynal broke his leg, and now walks with the aid of a walker. Joynal’s oldest son, Moizaddun Ahmed who was also seriously injured, has not regained mobility yet.
In the aftermath of the accident, the local Congress MLA gave the family Rs. 30,000. However, the family had to spend over 11 lakhs on everyone's treatment. They have been forced to sell much of what they owned and are still in debt.
Morium and Joynal, who lost both their daughters, know loss more deeply than most. Joymon Nessa, their older daughter has left behind a husband and three young children – a son who is 8, and two daughters, aged 13 and 6. Joymon’s 6-year-old, the one clinging to Morium, now lives with them. She has grown very attached to her grandmother.
Their younger daughter, Arjina, was 14 at the time of her death, and still a student in Class 8. Her family believed in the importance of education and so she was one of the few girls in the village who had continued to go to school. It is her school ID card that Morium is holding.