Stop Move to Make Assamese Muslims Homeless & Stateless
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A humanitarian crisis is underway in Assam as you read this. The National Register for Citizens (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 the NRC recently published a list of only 1.9 crores as legal citizens. A huge number of 1.39 crore Assamese, almost all Muslim, are under threat of having their legitimate citizenship revoked.
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 this… and the time to do this, is Right Now!
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 movement 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 crisis. Already, the move is being used to brand all Bengali Muslims, some of whom have lived in Assam for generations, as Bangladeshi immigrants, and 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 can lead to an explosion of violence.
The Supreme Court has set June 30, 2018 as the final date for completion of the register. Last time the court had come down heavily against an extension of the deadline. Given that over a crore 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 implementation of the NRC is showing Kafkaesque signs. As 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 others are being verified. It doesn't help that the technicality involved at the heart of the operation is patently unfair - to produce proof of residence dating back to 1971, of having ‘existed in the 1951 census’. Proof of citizenship, difficult for the poor and marginalised to avail of, are being demanded to establish legitimate citizenship.
Besides, what about an entire generation of people who were born to those who had come after 1971 and have since grown up in Assam? How will lakhs, if not crores of people be forcibly deported without creating immense social unrest? Perhaps, social unrest and reaping benefits of a communally polarised Assamese society is the driving force behind such a patently biased exercise.
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 an immediate halt to this anti-constitutional and potentially polarizing move.
· To end this attempt to brand all Muslims 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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