Humanitarian woes

by August 31, 2019 0 comments

Those left out of the NRC will surely be allowed to prove themselves but the deep distress could work against the govt

In the end, the final list of the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in Assam, that will isolate those who came to the State after 1971, raises an all-important question. Will the political point-scoring be enough to overcome the largescale humanitarian crisis and anxieties this move is expected to spark off? More importantly, are we prepared to tackle the spinoff? For both the ruling BJP and the regional parties, who have based their politics on the influx of illegal migrants from across the border over the years and changing the demographics, this will undoubtedly be a high point of their achievement, that of identifying bonafide citizens and lumping the rest through the most intricate process of documentation. They would claim to have restored legal rights and entitlements that were either diluted or denied to them because of the excess 41 lakh illegals preying on resources for so long. They would have exposed the Opposition, which has for years attempted a forced blend of migrants in an effort to shore up loyalist votebanks. And it is this cross-mix that has presented challenges in computing the NRC. Some of those who were there in the draft list have had their legacy papers duplicated and found their names replaced during the compilation process of the new list. Many genuine claimants have been left out while generations have been separated. Even national award recipients and Army families have been made to suffer unkind cuts. Not to mention families who actually fought against migrants from Bangladesh finding themselves out of the list while some post-1971 settlers are in. Understandably, news reports are full of the mental anxiety of affected people and the collusion with local-level officials that has generated a kind of “list economy.” Even the BJP’s ideological anchor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is now calling the entire exercise “flawed” and considers it even more dangerous than the IMDT Act if even “one genuine citizen is left out.” The Rightists, who are hoping to breach Bengal after Assam and Tripura, are apprehensive about the hitback from the Bengali-speaking Hindu population about the status of their citizenship if their names vanish in the final list.

So what does it mean for those declared as foreigners almost overnight? Clearly, deportation is not on the agenda what with neighbouring Bangladesh fearing an exodus of refugees, considering it is stretched at the seams by the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. In fact, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had to assure Dhaka that there would be no reverse flow. What the extended timeline of ten months to those who are excluded means is that they will be caught in a fresh round of documentation and legacy-hunts besides being frayed at the edges for doing the same thing over and over again. The State police have already admitted that the post-NRC scenario would be highly challenging. One would say that those challenges have already begun with rights groups and alternative voices claiming that census data shows hardly any post-1971 foreigners in Assam and that this was nothing but a politically motivated disruption. Nobody is talking about detention centres or rehabilitation of NRC-rejects as the re-verification process will take months, maybe years, simply because people struck off the citizens’ list can go to the High Court and the Supreme Court if they fail to establish their credentials at the foreigners’ tribunals. Existing detention camps, part of jail premises, are already crammed. What this does is that it denies basic rights and dignity of and isolates an entire section of people, whose frustration and unsettled pride could spur another round of violence.

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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