Swati Bidhan Baruah, Assam’s first transgender judge Credit: Facebook
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Guwahati: Life has been always tough for Nurjahan Begum, a 36-year-old member of the transgender community and a native of Mangaldoi, a town located about 75 km from the state capital of Dispur, in Assam. To save herself from dejection and constant humiliation in society, including in the school that she studied in till Class XII, she left for New Delhi in 1998 in the hope of a better life. She was told that transgender people had better chances of acceptance there.

Little did she know then that, even in the national capital, she would be duped by none other than her own ‘boyfriend’ of all the money and jewellery that she had saved while working there. Left with no other option but to come back to Assam, she began a new life in Guwahati, which she has been calling home for the past 13 years or so now.

Like many others from the transgender community, Nurjahan Begum has not found a mention in the NRC draft list

Things had been going well so far, till the National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation process began in Assam. Nurjahan is now among the 20,000-odd members of the transgender community in Assam who have failed to find a place in the final NRC draft list published on July 30 this year. The community cites the failure to furnish their ‘legacy’ documents — a major part of the procedure to claim eligibility for inclusion in NRC — as a major reason for this exclusion.

“My name has not been included in the final draft of the NRC. Like many others of my community, this has happened primarily because our families have shunned us. It’s very difficult to furnish our legacy documents when our parents themselves wouldn’t want to accept us as their children,” says Nurjahan, who is now heading a group of transgender people hailing from the region between Jagiroad and Rangia in Assam.

“Apart from our inclusion in the NRC list, the government should also provide us enough facilities that are special to the community. We are very hopeful that our names will be included in the final list. Otherwise, we will register our protest against the whole issue,” she adds.

Nurjahan was referring to the recent Supreme Court order, dated August 28, which paved the way for re-verification of 10 per cent of those people in Assam who were excluded from the draft NRC. The apex court had also deferred the scheduled date of August 30 for receipt of claims and objections to the draft NRC, as it pointed out certain contradictions in the Centre’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the filing them.

Some 40 lakh people, of a total of 3.29 crore people, hadn’t made it to the list of citizens in the final draft NRC list. Of the 40 lakh people not in the final draft, as many as 37.59 lakh names were rejected and 2.48 lakh names were put on hold.

The community believes that its members will be included in that 10 per cent. “Although the SC has not categorised the 10% of this population as male or female, we are desperately hoping that a suitable judgment will be made by the apex court in favour of the transgender community so that no one is left out from the NRC updation process,” says Swati Bidhan Baruah, Assam’s first transgender judge and the founder of the All Assam Transgender Association (AATA).

The transgender community in Assam is hopeful that it will be included in the 10 per cent of those people excluded from the draft NRC that the Supreme Court has now ordered to re-verify

Coming down heavily on the authorities concerned, Baruah alleged that nothing has been done for the community so far. “In claims and objection application forms of the NRC, there is no mention about gender. The transgender community finds it difficult to claim an objection,” laments Baruah, who is among 20 member judges to mediate cases in a Lok Adalat in Guwahati.

A majority of the transgender people leave homes in their early childhood and this makes it difficult for them trace their roots. “So, it becomes almost impossible for them to collect their legacy data and other necessary documents to prove their nationality,” adds Baruah.

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