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''My life hinges on this mark''

Written by: Staff
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Chaygaon, Apr 3 (UNI) Ismail Ali is carrying an inch long plaster, tucked inside his lungi, as he is about to cast his vote in the Char area of Chaygaon.

The plaster is for him and the families of his four brothers. For everyone of this extended family of 44, that plaster is an insurance for the next six months at least.

''Immediately after I vote I will plaster the index finger to protect the indelible ink because that is my identity. That is my recognition of being an Indian citizen. I will keep the finger away from water and I will protect it by any means,'' he said.

Ismail is originally from Rongpur, now in Bangladesh. His father Rahmat Ali crossed over to India in the 60s with young Ismail and four of his brothers. The whole family is basically into farming and now Ismail and his son are making occasional foray into Guwahati to work as construction labourers.

Every year more than half a dozen-time police catch them, suspecting them to be illegal Bangladeshis. Each time, one of them has to go back home, produce the ration card and pay a small bribe to release the others out of the police clutch.

''This is quite troublesome. With IMDT gone, I do not want to take any chance. I want to live in peace and this sign of indelible mark in my index finger is the key to that peace. As long as it is there, I am safe and it is my duty to protect it,'' he said.

There are tens of thousands of Ismails in lower Asom.

As from Guwahati city alone not less than 30,000 such people of Bangladeshi origin have gone back to villages to vote, more importantly, to get the mark on the finger.

''Candidate and symbol are not important but what matter most is the mark. Without that we will once again be caught by police. Once again we have to fork out some money,'' he said.

UNI MT TJP RN 1447

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