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Assam’s NRC dilemma: Transgenders face threat of losing citizenship

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    Guwahati, Jan 4: At a time when everyone in Assam is worried about retaining their citizenship, in the wake of the mammoth task of publication of names in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, transgenders in the state are caught in a peculiar situation.

    In order to enroll one's name in the NRC, the person has to submit official documents pertaining to his/her residential address. Based on the documents submitted and official verification, the government is deciding the fate of the citizenship rights of the people of Assam.

    transgender

    Unfortunately, most of the transgenders in the state lamented the fact that they don't have official documents to prove that they are the bonafide citizens of the country, in spite of being born and raised in Assam.

    The members of the transgender community, which is a small and marginalised one, said that they are all being ostracised by society as families of most of them have abandoned them.

    "We are all homeless and poor people. Our families have abandoned us. We don't have official documents to prove that we too are the citizens of the country," said a transgender.

    Since the last several weeks, Assam was on tenterhooks before the release of an initial part draft of the contentious NRC on Sunday midnight. Thankfully, all went well.

    The first draft of the much-awaited NRC for Assam has listed 19 million people out of the 32.9 million applicants as legal Indian citizens in a massive exercise aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state that borders Bangladesh.

    As hardly name of any transgender has figured in the first draft of NRC, for the obvious reason that nobody from the community applied for it, Swati Bidhan Baruah, a transgender rights activist, has sought help from the office of the NRC co-ordinator.

    "I have requested the NRC co-ordinator Prateek Hajela to look into the matter as I have received calls from many who could not apply for NRC. Hajela told me that he will discuss the matter with us in the second week of January," Baruah, who leads an association of more than 5,400 transgenders in Assam, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

    Baruah filed a PIL in Gauhati high court last year for a state policy for the welfare of the transgenders.

    Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday said all those excluded in the first NRC draft should not worry as no one will be discriminated against on the basis of caste and community and will be given opportunities to prove citizenship.

    Sonowal also said that a mechanism has to be devised "humanely" by the central government on what to do with those who are found to be illegal immigrants after finalisation of the NRC, a list of the state's citizens.

    "There is no question of discriminating against anyone whether he or she is a Hindu, Muslim, Bengali or Nepali," Sonowal told PTI.

    No one will be victimised on the basis of caste and community, he asserted.

    "All will be treated equally and given opportunities to prove their citizenship so that their names could be incorporated in the subsequent drafts of the NRC," Sonowal said.

    Now, it needs to be seen how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state deals with the issue of citizenship rights of transgenders, who mostly have no official documents.

    "Most of the transgenders in Assam are illiterate and they are either into begging or sex work. It's time for the BJP government in Assam to help the transgenders," said a transgender, who left her home eight years ago, and now begs in the Guwahati railway station.

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