The National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam has sent many residents scrambling through the archives in various government offices, in an effort to prove their citizenship.
One important destination for these residents is the Directorate of State Archives office in Kolkata. According to The Hindu, thousands have thronged the office, sifting through voter lists from 1952 to March 1971 (the cut-off date) numbering hundreds of pages, in search of their ancestors.
Streams of people with identity documents visit the Certified Section of the State Archives, hoping to find their ancestors’ name on the electoral rolls. For those who find the names of their relatives, this office has proven to be a godsend by issuing certified copies of these documents.
“Earlier we hardly got any visitors. The few who came were looking for old municipal gazettes and those caught in landowner-tenant legal disputes asked us for certified copies from the old voter list,” said archivist Anup Kumar Sarkar, who issues forms to those from Assam, to The Hindu.
It’s no surprise that the families of many in Assam had migrated from erstwhile West Bengal, and are thus searching for the names of their ancestors in these voter lists.
In fact, most people searching through these records had family members residing in areas of West Bengal’s Cooch Behar District, which borders Lower Assam, reports The Hindu.
The State Archives are issuing certified copies of such documentary proofs under Section 76 of the Indian Evidence Act. These archives possess records since the mid-18th century. The office is charging visitors Rs 20 as a ‘searching fee’ of sorts, besides an additional Rs 5 for the certified copy.
However, there are also various retired officials who have offered their services to sift through these 60-year-old documents for free.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)