‘They call us Bangladeshi’: Assam’s citizenship crisis, neglected villages | Report by Karma Paljor

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In Dhubri, the bastion of AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, has hundreds of homes ravaged by erosion. The burden to prove one’s legacy becomes more difficult.

Dhubri is a town located at the edge of Assam, an entry point into Bangladesh. Its location has been a point of contention between the two countries– it’s portrayed as a gateway for illegal immigrants.

Until 1874, Dhubri was under the Koch Rajbongshi kings. Today, it is home to mostly Bengalis, especially Bengali Muslims, and is considered the bastion of All India United Democratic Front supremo Badruddin Ajmal, the perfume baron who has represented it since 2009.

This time, Ajmal faces a river of rage, because change is difficult in a region that's battered by the fury of the Brahmaputra every year.

Soil erosion has hit hundreds of families, eating up their homes, schools and even health facilities. And when your village gets washed away, how do you prove your address is ‘real’? How do you prove your legacy?

“I feel scared. I am a daily wage worker and earn Rs 250 a day. Now I spend about Rs 3,000 on travel, Rs 5,000 for the lawyer. He was asking for Rs 10,000. How do I pay him? I have sold my cows and goats and everything. I urge the government to put an end to everything,” says Rukiya Khatun, whose case is being heard in Barpeta.

EastMojo’s Karma Paljor finds similar stories in one village after another in the region. Across lower Assam, since 1997, thousands of people have been identified as D-voters or doubtful voters. A person whose citizenship is in question. D-voters and the fight to prove their citizenship remains a focal point for thousands. But even if your citizenship is not in doubt, it hardly translates into a better quality of life.

Take the example of Asharikandi, the terracotta village which got its 60 seconds of fame when PM Narendra Modi talked about this village during his Mann Ki Baat in September 2020. Artisans point to lack of basic amenities, and the absence of quality soil with the mountains cut down.


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