Stop move to make Assamese people Homeless & Stateless
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A humanitarian crisis is underway in Assam as you read this. A whopping 40 lakh people have been left out of the final draft of the National Register for Citizens (NRC) that was published on July 30, 2018. People who have been left out of the list include Bengali Muslims and Hindus, many of them from socio-economically backward communities. Many Koch Rajbongshis and people of Nepalese origin have also been left out. Over half of the people excluded from the NRC are rural women and children.
The NRC, a record of 'legitimate' Indian citizens living in Assam, is being updated for the first time since 1951. The ostensible objective is to weed out 'Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants'. However, the numbers tell a chilling story… one of a conspiracy of ‘othering’ and exclusion.
3.29 crore people from 68.27 lakh families in Assam have submitted over 6.5 crore documents with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to prove their Indian citizenship. But in July 2018, the NRC published a list of only 2.89 crores as legal citizens. Now, 40 lakh Assamese, many of them from poor and marginalised communities, are under threat of having their legitimate citizenship revoked. They have one last chance in the Claims and Objections process.
Imagine your citizenship being revoked. You find yourself suddenly stateless, without not just a home but also the right to call a country your home. You are condemned to soul-crushing poverty, you cannot earn a livelihood, cannot send your children to school!
We, at Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) believe, Indians must raise their voice against the exclusion of such a large number of people from the NRC… and the time to do this, is Right Now!
CJP is setting up an on ground team in Assam to help people file claims so that their names may be added to the final NRC. Our teams will provide legal aid across 15 districts and will be led by an eminent jurist.
The Politics behind the Cut-off Date
The cut-off date fixed for the register is March 24, 1971. This is especially significant given that the Bangladesh war began on March 25, 1971 after which several refugees poured into India.
The date, March 24, 1971, was fixed by the Assam Accord of 1985, drawn up between representative of the Assam Agitation and the Rajiv Gandhi government. And even though leaders of this movement went on to become leading politicians of the state, nothing was done to implement the accord.
Now, 33 years later, the maiden BJP government of Assam (which has publicly welcomed Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants to Assam) has brought the issue back to the fore. And with senior members of the government using words like 'deportation', the cynicism of the entire exercise is not lost on anybody. During its election campaign, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party used hate speech and vitriol against the state’s religious minorities.
With the Bangladesh government claiming no illegal emigration, disenfranchising such a huge number of people can result in a humanitarian disaster similar to the Rohingya refugee crisis. Already, the move is being used to brand all Bengali Muslims, some of whom have lived in Assam for generations, as Bangladeshi immigrants. A vicious public sentiment is being whipped up against them. In a state that saw one of the worst communal massacres in free India, the Nellie Massacre of 1983, such a hate filled build up could lead to an explosion of violence. Similarly, fires of hate are being fanned against Bengali Hindus and the worst affected are people from socio-economically backward castes and communities.
The Supreme Court had earlier set June 30, 2018 as the final date for completion of the register. This deadline was later extended to July 30, 2018. Last time the court had come down heavily against an extension of the deadline. Given that hundreds of thousands of people are still not on the register, one wonders what course their lives would take in the event registrations are not completed before the deadline. You can read the previous Supreme Court order dated March 27, 2018 here.
Proof of Citizenship as a Tool of Exclusion
Already, the manner in which lakhs of people were excluded from the NRC is being questioned. Instead of an explanation for the huge difference between the number of people who have submitted documents versus those who have been included in the register, officials say the Claims and Objections process is still available to those who have been excluded.
That is where we at Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) believe that we all have to step in. Before it is too late.
· To demand proof that the SOPs, ESOPs and modalities prescribed by the Supreme Court monitoring process were followed in letter and spirit during the NRC update.
. That there be a system in place to monitor the functioning of Detention Camps that are currently operating out of make-shift facilities in local prisons.
· To end this attempt to brand all Bengalis, whether Muslims or Hindus as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
· To demand that corrupt local officials are NOT empowered with Coercive powers to unilaterally decide fates of entire families.
· To stop dividing Assam for narrow political gains.
Raise your voice against this now. Sign our petition.
For more information, please visit https://cjp.org.in/
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