This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sanobar Fatma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Losing Homes And Identities: How Assam Floods Made It Worse For Those Excluded From NRC

WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.
This post is also a part of YKA's user-run series, Excluded - Understanding the CAA and NRC, by Indian Civil Liberties Union, curated by YKA top user Sanobar. Join the conversation by adding a post here.

I hear echoes of wailing

O’ foreigner friend, ill-fated

 – Bhupen Hazarika, ‘Chameli Memsahib’

Environment has played an important role in human history. From the rise and fall of empires to trade, wars and conquests, the changing pattern of the environment has shaped the course of the story of the people of the earth. In this story, water has played the most important role. Cities were formed around sources of water and civilizations were destroyed by water. Water has caused the most massive recorded displacements and loss. In India today, as thousands struggle to prove their citizenship, many have been reduced to the status of climate refugees because erosion or floods have swept their lands.

The National Register of Citizens In Assam

People wait to check their names on the final draft of the state’s National Register of Citizens after it was released. (PTI Photo)

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register that will contain the names of Indian citizens. After the census of 1951, a NRC was prepared by making a record of particulars of all the individuals specified during the Census of 1951.

Now NRC is updated in Assam to include the names of those people (or their families) who appeared in the National Register of Citizens of 1951, or else in one of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971, or in some of the other acceptable documents issued up to midnight of March 24, 1971, which would demonstrate their existence in Assam or in any part of India on or before March 24, 1971.

Almost two million people did not make it to the final list, and the tribunals declared them foreigners stripping them of their citizenship rights and privileges. They now face the risk of being detained or deported.

The Annual Assam Floods

Assam’s topographic uniqueness makes it prone to floods; the mighty Brahmaputra carries with itself a huge amount of water and sediments. Assam also lies in a high-risk seismic zone; this means that landslides are common, and they push soil and debris into the water. This, in turn, raises the level of the sea bed and reduces the water-carrying capacity of the river. Large parts of Assam lie in a meteorological zone that is marked by surplus rainfall. A large amount of rain in a relatively short time makes it difficult to control floods. The Brahmaputra flows through a narrow valley, and there are forests on either side, but the rest of the low-lying area is used for farming. If the river overflows, as it occasionally does, the water spills over and gushes to reach these narrow pieces of land. From steep slopes, the water streams out to the heavily populated plains.

Thousands are affected, and yet, hardly do the floods make a national headline. They suffer the loss of lives, animals, land, homes and livelihood. Additionally, this time, many might have lost their right to claim to Indian citizenship.

Floods In The Times Of NRC

Those who submitted land ownership records of eroded land cannot prove anything. This effectively means that these people are now climate refugees.

As the officials were in the final stages of hearing claims and objections for citizenship, floods stuck Assam and flood rescue workers struggled to evacuate people from the homes as they refused to leave without their documents. Parvesh Kumar, a National Disaster Response Force officer in Morigaon district, says, “There is huge flood water and strong current in the Brahmaputra. Water is entering the villages first, and we are tasked with this challenging operation to evacuate people. When we go to bring them, almost everyone carries a bunch of papers: their NRC documents. People are ready to leave everything but not their NRC file.”

When the final list of NRC came out, almost 1.9 million people’s documents were found to be incomplete, and they had 120 days to file an appeal before the Foreign Tribunal. Many had submitted their land documents.

The NRC Assam had an option where people had to show pre-land ownership documents with links to the ancestor, who figures in the document as the owner. Thus, old documents have become the key to establishing citizenship. If these documents are missing, or have small mistakes, or if the land itself does not exist anymore, there can be a serious problem.

In the year 2017, the government of Assam made a rule that those whose land had been lost due to erosion will no longer have to pay taxes. So, those who submitted land ownership records of eroded land cannot prove anything. This effectively means that these people are now climate refugees and effectively ‘foreigners’ if they fail to give proof through any other documents.

Climate Change And A Looming Disaster

Earth’s climate is changing at a rate faster than most scientific studies predicted. For some, like the affected people in Assam, this change could bring disaster. It is time that we understand that mayhem climate change can bring about and force people to leave their homes. Most of those settled on the bank of river Brahmaputra and its tributaries—these immigrants are the victims of flood and erosion, which make them homeless and landless. People displaced by climate need protection and assistance, and it is time we all come together to protect them and increase their resilience. Climate change will not spare anyone, and knowledge and working together might be the only thing that saves us.

Featured image via Flickr
You must be to comment.

More from Sanobar Fatma

Similar Posts

By Yash Khandelwal

By Juhi Smita


Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below