Till October this year, Dilip Das from Tripura and Gita Rani Sarkar from Assam never knew each other. Fast forward to the present, the latter addresses Das as her own son. And behind the heartwrenching incident that brought their fates together lies Das’s selfless act, moving mountains to stand beside a helpless lady.
61-year-old Gita Rani Sarkar was born and brought up in Sepahijala, Tripura, and later moved to Nalbari, Assam. As she was born in 1958 in Tripura and spent her youth there, she could not provide her citizenship documents prior to 1971. She was thus excluded from the final NRC list in Nalbari, Assam and was detained.
It was Dilip Das, the present headmaster of Charilam Higher Secondary School in Tripura, who spent immense time and money to trace the senior woman’s identification documents, simply with the information that she was a former student of his school. Later, he spent nearly Rs 14,000 from his own savings and took ten days off of his busy schedule to reach Assam and secure Sarkar’s release.
Gita Rani Sarkar’s NRC plight
To support her birth and citizenship claim, Sarkar could only produce a citizenship certificate granted by the Tripura government in the early 1960s, which the Assam NRC tribunal refused to accept. Though the names of Sarkar’s sons and family members featured in the final NRC list, Sarkar’s name was left out, putting her through relentless ordeal that even included deportation to a detention camp.
Sarkar kept on repeating her claim of having studied in Charilam Higher Secondary School. She even recounted that she secured admission to class VI of the school in 1970. Moved by her persistence, the foreigner’s tribunal summoned Dilip Das to corroborate her claims with relevant documents.
“I knew I was the only one who can help her. I spent nights trying to dig up her records and finally got my hands on a few relevant proofs,” shares Das, who had initially sent photocopies of the documents to the tribunal via speed post.
However, the tribunal demanded original copies of the documents which is when Das decided to submit the same in person at their office.
How Dilip Das stepped up to the cause
“I applied for ten days from my earned leave balance and booked a Tatkal ticket to set out the next instant. I had to secure permission from the Sepahijala District Education Office. It was a remote village, so the journey was long and tiring. On 22 October, I boarded a 3 AM train from Guwahati to Nalbari and reached the village around 10:30 AM, following a rough commute.”
As soon as he reached the NRC office, he produced the original records in his possession and waited for days till Sarkar’s inclusion in the list was finalised.
“That was when someone pointed at Gita Rani Sarkar, waiting anxiously at one corner of the court premises. She was frail and visibly distressed. I walked up to her and assured of no trouble henceforth. She was ecstatic. She broke down in relief and called me son,” recalls Das.
He adds how the NRC exclusion necessitated Sarkar to attend the detention centre every day, and even posed the threat of an uncertain future for her.
Later, Sarkar invited him to her home but Das politely declined. It took around a week for the entire episode to be completed, after which Das returned home.
In cognisance of Das’s humanitarian act, the Tripura Education Department has sanctioned his ten-day leave as official duty. The citizens of Tripura and Assam are pouring in their appreciation and love for Das.
“I feel good to have helped her in the time of need,” Das humbly asserts.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)