One person has died and at least 30 people have been hospitalised, after a bus carrying them to a National Register of Citizens (NRC) re-verification hearing in Golaghat district of upper Assam met with an accident on Sunday night on National Highway 37 in the outskirts of the capital Guwahati.
The badly injured passengers, who were taken to Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) were rushing from Kamrup district, after NRC authorities summoned them to a hearing 450 kilometres away, on just 40 hours’ notice, to re-verify their documents. They were among the hundreds of people in at least two districts of Lower Assam, Kamrup (Rural) and Barpeta, to have received “sudden” notices to appear for NRC hearings within the next few days, starting Monday.
According to reports, a dumper loaded with hot bitumen and tar laden stones used for repairing roads fell over the bus, severely injuring the passengers.
More than 20,000 people in Muslim-dominated districts of lower Assam have received notices by the NRC authorities for re-verification for overnight hearings, in violation of guidelines issued by both the NRC and the Supreme Court order.
According to guidelines on the NRC website, notices must be served a minimum of 15 days before the date of hearing. Also, in its July 23, 2019, order, the Supreme Court had clearly ruled that such a re-verification process by the NRC is not necessary at this point. However, despite the SC orders, NRC authorities are compelling poor and hapless residents to travel hundreds of kilometres in a flood-hit state to attend hearings.
“In the name of updating the NRC, the authorities have unleashed terror”, the Times of India quoted Hiren Gohain and Manjit Mahanta of the Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill, as saying.
“With just a few days left for publication of the final NRC, notices have been issued to about 30,000 people. They were asked to appear for hearings overnight at centres 500-800km away. After the Supreme Court rejected the proposal for re-verification, the sudden decision of the NRC authorities has surprised all of us,” the statement said. “We demand reliable clarification from the NRC authorities in this regard.”