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Question of Citizenship And The Preparation of National Register of  Citizens (NRC) In Assam


With the formation of nation-state, any person or a group who is ‘stateless’ or falls within ‘non-citizen’ category will face denial of constitutional, fundamental and electoral rights. Ceasing of citizenship directly corresponds to the loss of “right to have rights”. They will be put to worst cases of discrimination, mostly vulnerable to assault and ill-treatment losing the state given protection. It will take their mean of subsistence, labour and income there by struggling to have food, clothing, shelter and basic amenities of life.

Socio-political background to cross-border migration and settlements in northeastern states of India can be traced back to partition, Bangladesh liberation war and other demographic, social and economic reasons. Proposed amendment to Citizenship Act 1955 – introduced in Lok Sabha on 19 July 2016 will make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. This drew wide protest across the state of Assam and other parts of North East terming it as violation of Assam accord 1985. Organized groups fear about an influx of ‘Hindu Bangladeshis’ into the state.

Complexity of the problem doesn’t cease to worsen as Muslims and Hindus of Bengali origin make up nearly 45 per cent of Assam’s population, more than ethnic Assamese, which sparked anxiety about losing their cultural and linguistic identity to a ‘migrant population’. Here most tribal people register themselves by tribal identity and not as Assamese speakers.

While people of Bengali extraction, significantly Muslims, faces expulsion as the provincial government puts the final touches on its National Register of Citizens (NRC), due on 30th June 2018 as per the deadline given by Supreme Court of India. The first part of the draft NRC, containing 19.1 million names, was published on December 31. Nearly 33 million residents of Assam applied for inclusion in the registry, of which about 12.8 million applicants are not yet on the list. Those who can’t make it to the final list will lose their citizenship.

Also read The Stateless People In Assam

The obvious thing about unrest and this state of doubt is politically motivated stand by Union Government to legalize citizenship of a section of migrants through an amendment ruling along the lines of religion. Meanwhile a coordination of Muslim groups cried foul over procedural laps from NRC secretariat the entire exercise of updating the list is drawing to a close. Their concerns include non-acceptance of certified copies of their names in voters’ lists as proof of citizenship for those who do not have legacy data and absence of a publicized voters’ lists published till 1971 from secretariat.

This whole project of expelling a certain section of population will have direct impact on the demography and socio-political relationships between communities. Owing to the history of Sangh parivar controlled central government, we can easily understand the propaganda for wide ethnic cleansing and genocide is underway. When the whole world is restructuring due to migrant influxes, let us not keep silent about the immediate exiles of our own population. Let’s fight for their right to have rights.

(This is a joint pamphlet of ASA, SIO and MSF from University of Hyderabad.)

Image: Representative