Two memorials some 30 km apart have for long defined the psychological divide in the Muslim-majority Barpeta, a district that has spawned quite a few agitations in post-Independence Assam.Every day, Kalimun Nessa wipes the dirt off the memorial outside her house at Khandakar Para village, which lists her second son, Maidul Islam Molla among the four martyrs of the 2010 anti-NRC protests.Maidul was 25 when he became a ‘martyr’ of an agitation spearheaded by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) against a pilot project of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2010.The outsider tagThe police had opened fire on hundreds of protestors who allegedly tried to storm the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Barpeta on July 21 that year. Maidul was hit by a bullet in his chest.“I would often ask Allah why Maidul, the second of my four sons had to die that day. The NRC has made me realise he died so that 10 others would live without the burden of the Bangladeshi tag,” Kalimun Nessa, 62, said.Still retain faithA high school dropout, Maidul used to run a small rice and spice mill at home. The unit shut down after he died.Of the 18 family members he left behind, 16 have made it to the final NRC draft published on July 30. The two members who were left out include Maidul’s aunt Abida Begum.“We are among 40 lakh people excluded from the list, I hear. But we have faith that the final NRC will be an error-free one and settle the (illegal immigrants) issue once and for all,” she said.Khandakar Para has some 4,000 people, and almost every house has one or more members missing from the NRC.In adjoining Kumullipara village, daily wager Nur Begum is the only member of her family not in the NRC.Like Maidul, her 55-year-old husband Majam Ali, who was transporting goods in a handcart, died of bullet wounds in the anti-NRC agitation.Nur Begum’s name does not figure in the final NRC list though her father Burhan Uddin figured in the 1951 NRC, as her legacy code 120-0034-9821 suggests.“They rejected my documents, including one provided by the Kumullipara gram panchayat secretary. I may or may not be included, but the NRC will for our people be a rashtriya daleel (national agreement) that no one can erase,” she said.The youngest of the four ‘martyrs’ was Khandakar Motaleb Ali, 20, also of Kumullipara. The fourth was Sirajul Haque, 27, of Baniarpara nearby. Desperate for peace“If need be, I would sacrifice my other three sons for a correct NRC that ensures peaceful coexistence without anyone being suspected,” Sirajul’s father Kalachand, 60, said.The AAMSU observes May 26 as its martyrs day. The day honours the four who died in the anti-NRC movement along with others who died for the cause of minority rights. “Their death led to discussions among stakeholders, including AAMSU and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), and changes in modalities of the updating exercise, with the Supreme Court eventually monitoring it,” AAMSU’s cultural secretary Moniruz Zaman told The Hindu.The feeling is similar at Ujan Borbori, the village where Khargeswar Talukdar lived. He died in a police crackdown on another group of protesters 31 years ago. Ujan Borbori, 30 km east of the engraved marble that remembers the ‘NRC martyrs’ at Khandakar Para, sports a memorial in Khargeswar’s honour. The memorial adjoins a government-run school in his name. Khargeswar was just 18 when be became the first of 855 martyrs of the Assam Agitation against illegal immigrants that began in 1979. The agitation ended with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985.“Though some issues need to be ironed out, the NRC has reassured us that my brother’s death has not gone in vain. We hope it ends the Bangladeshi issue that has dominated the socio-political landscape and stolen our happiness for decades,” said Chandra Kanta Talukdar, the youngest of Khargeswar’s seven siblings.Khargeswar died in 1979 when protestors tried to prevent Begum Abida, wife of former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, from filing her nomination for the Barpeta Lok Sabha seat.Co-existence shatteredEver since it was carved out of Kamrup district in 1983 at the peak of Assam Agitation, Barpeta has been synonymous with migration of Bengalis —Muslims and Hindus — from Bangladesh. But old-timers say the area had been an epitome of co-existence until the seeds of division were sown during the Assam Agitation.They refer to Montu Nag, who became AASU’s first Bengali Hindu secretary despite coming from East Pakistan in 1960 and living in one of two refugee colonies — Sonkuchi and Theka — in Barpeta town. He had spearheaded the Assam Agitation in the district in 1979 along with Bengali Muslim leaders Asgar Ali and Abdul Hai Nagori, now a Congress MLA. But the camaraderie snapped a year later with Bengali leaders of AASU deciding to form the AAMSU at the landmark Barpeta Road Howly College in 1980. Things were never the same again.“Barpeta never had a communal problem. But something changed after the Assam Agitation and political parties began cashing-in on religious and linguistic divide. The NRC has given us hope of Barpeta returning to the good old days,” Padmanil Sarma, an AASU leaders of 1979 vintage, said.“We hope so too. An error-free NRC should spell death for divisive politics, and that is what Barpeta and hopefully the country beyond wants,” Mr. Zaman said.