Assam: Rights Activist Denied Passport on Grounds That His Citizenship is 'Doubtful'

Pranab Doley has accused the BJP of 'political vendetta' because of his stand against eviction drives and various government policies in the state.

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New Delhi: Assam-based rights activist Pranab Doley, who has been a vocal critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state, has been denied a passport by regional authorities, saying his Indian nationality has been called ‘doubtful’ by the Assam police.

Doley is a resident of the Panbari Mising village under the Bokakhat sub-division of Assam’s Golaghat district. He hails from Assam’s indigenous Mising community, one of the largest ‘plain’ tribes that reside in the Northeastern state. 

The regional passport office’s refusal to issue Doley a fresh passport comes after the state government, on October 2 of this year, formed a sub-committee to put together a structure for the implementation of the Assam Accord of 1985 within a span of three months and to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC). 

The final updated NRC left out nearly 19 lakh residents of the state, citing that their Indian nationality as ‘doubtful’. Doley’s name, however, appears in the updated NRC.

Speaking to The Wire from his hometown of Bokakhat, Doley said that on December 20, he received a letter from the Guwahati-based regional passport office stating that while processing his renewal form, it had come across “shortcomings”. It said: “Your nationality is doubtful as per police report.” He was advised to clarify doubts (about his Indian citizenship) at the passport office in person.

Doley categorically accused the district superintendent of police (SP)’s office at Golaghat of acting in cahoots with its political masters, stating, “It is clearly an act of political vendetta against me. It is because I have been vocal about the eviction drives (around the periphery of the Kaziranga National Park) and different policies of the government. Every time I have raised an issue (under the banner of the Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha), the district police have filed a case against me. During BJP rule, since 2016 I have been arrested four times. There are six cases filed against me.”    

Also read: ‘Armed Police Barged Into House Day After I Announced Candidature,’ Says Assam Activist

In the assembly elections held earlier this year, Doley had contested against the BJP-allied Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) candidate and state agriculture minister Atul Bora in Bokakhat. Doley contested as a joint candidate of the Mahajot, the opposition alliance comprising the Congress, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Left parties and the Anchalik Gana Morcha among others. While Bora (who is also the AGP president) won the seat with 72,930 votes, Doley came second, pocketing 27,749. 

Reacting to the regional passport office’s letter, an upset Doley took to Twitter on the evening of December 21 to state, “I fight to save the Constitution and not stay silent. I stood for elections. PM Modi campaigned against me and now I become a doubtful citizen while applying for my passport.”

Doley was referring to Narendra Modi’s rally in support of Bora at Bokakhat on March 21, in the run-up to the assembly polls. 

Doley told The Wire, “My passport, issued for ten years in 2010, expired towards the end of 2020. I was busy with the election campaign. On April 7, soon after the voting (in March) was over, I applied for its renewal. I was duly called to the Bokakhat police station for police verification. There, the OC and the sub-inspector told me that all my documents are clear and in place. Yet, the SP’s office in Golaghat sent a report to the regional passport office in Guwahati stating that my citizenship is under doubt. What should I understand from it if not political vendetta?” 

The peasants’ rights activist also pointed out, “It is the same SP’s office which had given me police clearance to fight the 2021 assembly polls. The Election Commission of India and the court had also pronounced me as a candidate suitable to contest the assembly polls, eligible to represent the public of Bokakhat at the state assembly and yet, suddenly, the Assam Police finds my citizenship doubtful, in spite of me submitting all my papers. It is condemnable also because the authorities are made to play with a right granted to every citizen by the constitution.”

Doley said he would soon contact the district police “to send a clarification report” regarding his application.

Reacting to the news, state Congress spokesperson Bobbeeta Sharma on Twitter called the state police’s action “outrageous”. 

Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, Rajya Sabha MP from Assam and president of the Anchalik Gana Morcha, too, reacted on the social media platform,