Picture of spurious form being circulated sparking residential certificate controversy
Following the language controversy that had metamorphosed into an agitation shutting down the Hills of North Bengal for 104 days, a new controversy is being given shape in the form of a rumor.
A post is going viral in the social media that claims that for residential certificates from the Sub Divisional Office in Darjeeling one has to produce documents dating back to 1950 as proof of one's permanent citizenship. The post claims that it is a ploy to project Gorkhas as refugees in India.
The District Administration has declared it false and baseless rumor. Political commentators feel that it is a meticulously calculated plan to create unrest and disturb the newly found peace after the 104 day long bandh that has left the Hills high and dry.
Incidentally a controversy had been sparked in June stating that Bengali was being made a compulsory language subject in Hill schools. Despite repeated assurances by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that such proclamation had not been made for the Hills, regular protests were given shape.
The matter was given such an emotional stir being projected as cultural and linguistic domination. Soon the protests turned into an agitation for Gorkhaland with the 104 day bandh.
This time it is the picture of a form entitled "Application for Residential Certificate," that is being circulated in Social media sites.
The form has the header "Government of West Bengal, Office of the Sub Divisional Officer, Sadar, Darjeeling." In the Submitted Documents part of the form, the 2nd clause states "As proof of Permanent Citizenship: i. Land deed/land tax receipt since 1950. ii. Voter list proving residence since 1950 iii. Birth certificate proving residences since 1950 iv. Ration Card proving residence since 1950 v. Any other Government documents proving residence of the family since 1950.
The rumor has caused panic and has prompted protests in social media sites. Some Hill political parties have also raised voices of dissent.
Commenting on this, Joyoshi Das Gupta, District Magistrate, Darjeeling talking to Oneindia stated "We are aware of this. It has been circulating for quite some time. No such form has been issued from my office. Very few people would have documents dating back to 1950s, so how can such documents be made compulsory? It is a complete false and baseless rumor."
Interestingly in the State of Sikkim, people eligible for the recently notified Residential Certificates have to comply with a cut-off date.
A Sikkim Government notification clearly states that Residential Certificates will be issued to all those who have been residing continuously in Sikkim since or before April 26, 1975 or are permanent employees of the State Government but do not have a Certificate of Identification.
A Certificate of Identification is issued to Sikkim Subject Certificate holders and their descendants.
The Darjeeling DM however spoke of numerous complaints received her office in the last few months regarding "dual citizens" from Nepal.
"The complainants claim that residents of Nepal are getting residential and other documents here, thereby usurping the benefits meant for the hill residents. Many residents and organizations have demanded the scrapping of Article 7 of the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty also" added the DM.
The Article 7 of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the Government of India and Government Of Nepal states "The Governments of India and Nepal agree to grant, on reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country in the territories o the other the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privileges of a similar nature."
The DM stated that similar complaints are coming from the plains of the district regarding Bangladeshi settlers.
"We have asked officers all over the district to be more careful and ensure no ineligible person gets Government documents anywhere in the district. For electoral Roll revision we are giving special attention to verify citizenship carefully all over the district (both the Hills and the plains.) We have to be extra cautious as this district has borders with so many countries" added Das Gupta.
The district administration recently had conducted a probe into an alleged Nepal citizen holding public office in Darjeeling.
Nira Sharma, Councillor of Ward 1 of Darjeeling Municipality was found to be a citizen of Ilam district of Nepal. "She has not surrendered her Nepal citizenship nor has she enrolled as per Ministry of Home Affairs norms. A complaint has been lodged under Citizen's Act and Foreigner's Act. Her name will be struck off the electoral rolls. Three others are also being investigated" added the DM. Sharma is absconding.
Both India and Nepal do not allow citizens to hold dual citizenships. This is the second tenure for Sharma as a Ward Councillor. Earlier also she had won from Ward number 1 contesting in Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ticket. Her Councillorship will automatically stand terminated with her name struck off the electoral rolls.