By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
28 February 2020
Identifying and giving identity card to every citizen of India could have been welcomed by every bonafide citizen of India as it would only strengthen their status as a citizen. But in practice, the NRC has proved to be a disaster because of insincerity of the government, a faulty mechanism and a communal approach to the problem of illegal immigration.
Since December, protests against the proposed implementation of the NRC in the entire country have intensified as the protests have been organized in more than 100 cities and towns of the country mostly participated by women. The subsequent passage of the Citizen Amendment Act coupled with the announcement of the launch of NPR from April 1 has only added to the anxiety and concern of the common people. The fear is that the NPR is the first step towards the NCR which may declare millions of bonafide citizens of India illegal immigrants merely for want of valid documents and spelling errors in names in the documents. The fear is not unfounded going by the experience of the Assamese people where majority of the people did not figure in the final list only because they could not produce documents or there were small errors in names which are common in government documents. The mechanism for identifying the illegal immigrants was not logical as the onus of proving their citizenship was put on the residents and the entire population of Assam, some 3 crore and 30 lakh were asked to file application seeking citizenship with valid documents. The draft NRC excluded 40 lakh residents. The final NRC list was published on August 31 which again excluded 19 lakh people. Out of the 19 lakh, 5 lakh were Muslims while 14 lakh were Hindus (mostly from SC/ST/OBC).
This caused widespread concern among the people of the entire India as they feared the same fate when the NRC would be implemented in other states as well. Widespread protests by Muslims and Dalits were organized across the country with spontaneous participation by the people. The police crackdown in UP and Delhi killed more than 22 people while injuring hundreds. Delhi witnessed violence during the last four days claiming more than 40 lives while hundreds are injured. Violence may spread to other towns causing more lives and damage to property apart from affecting the productivity of the country as trains, buses and businesses suffer blockage. Inspite of the government’s reluctance on withdrawing CAA and going back on NRC and NPR, the protesters are not ready to give in, rather the protests are spreading further.
The mechanism of identifying illegal immigrants is faulty and illogical, rather farcical. As was seen in Assam, in most of the families, only one member of the family was excluded from the list declaring him illegal immigrant. If the father figured in the list, the son did not; if the husband figured in the list, the wife did not. If the brothers figured in the list, the only sister did not. Now sensing the ineffectiveness of the process and seeing the huge number of excluded people, the government of Assam seeks to re-verify 20% percent of people in the list residing in the border districts of Assam. The NRC list has been withdrawn from the website. This gives indication that the government has realized its mistake. A re-verification of the process will put the residents again on the mercy of NRC personnel.
Muslims and Dalit organizations like BAMCEF and Bheem Army have been in the forefront of the protests against the BJP government causing large scale resentment among the people against the government. The government’s reputation has gone down and its vote share has also gone down. The recently held Jharkhand, Delhi and Maharashtra elections caused discomfiture to the BJP. Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi have become a symbol of powerful resistance against the NRC and CAA and its going by the mood of the public, implementing the NPR and NRC may not be easy for the government. Forceful implementation of NRC and NPR may cause large scale confrontation between the government and the people leading to loss of more lives and damage to property.
Many powerful political and social figures have termed the CAA and NRC illogical, unconstitutional and even inhuman. Tahir Mahmood has said that CAA is illogical and it will only cause divide among different communities. Veteran political leader and erstwhile central minister Yashwant Sinha is also against the NRC and CAA. He even led a huge march in the name of Mahatma Gandhi from Mumbai to Delhi in the month of January.
The government has sulked for the moment but it seems that it may go ahead with the NRC when the protests die down. According to veteran Congress leader Kapil Sibbal, the central government has already issued gazette notification of NRC on July 31, 2019. So, the NRC has already been legally announced and is in effect. The CAA has been brought apparently to accommodate Hindus to be excluded from the NRC. It excludes Muslims from its purview. That’s legal experts are of the opinion that the CAA is unconstitutional. The government has already given citizenship to thousands of people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan even before the CAA was promulgated. So, there was no need for such a law. Union Finance Minister recently said in Chennai that during the last six years 2838 Pakistanis (both Hindus and Muslims), 914 Afghans and 172 Bangladeshis have been given Indian citizenship. She further said that between 1964 to 2008 more than four lakh Tamils have been given citizenship of India and rehabilitated. Among the people from Afghanistan, 566 are Muslims. It should also be noted here that renowned Pakistani singer Adnan Sami and Pakistani actress Salma Agha and her daughter have also been granted Indian citizenship before the CAA was passed. So practically there was no need for such an Act that tarnishes the image of the government after it has done a considerably good job at the international front. The image of India has also been affected as the largest democracy and as a flagbearer of human and democratic values after the country’s own citizens have been made to prove their citizenship after 70 years of Independence. According to international citizenship laws, in 70 years people automatically become the citizen of a country under naturalization, birth and descent laws.
International Laws for illegal immigrants say that detention centres are only for illegal immigrants and so the detainees cannot be put in them for life. If the NRC is implemented, crores of people will be excluded from the list only because of some spelling errors or want of documents not because they are immigrants. The government cannot put them in detention centres for life. It cannot push them to Bangladesh, because for that the government will have to prove that they are Bangladeshis. What will the government do with millions of its own people after three or four years? Even maintaining their expenses for three to four years will be a huge burden not only on the government but on the common people because they will have to bear the brunt by paying more tax.
The NRC has proved to be a disaster both politically and financially. The Modi government has lost two elections due to the fear of the NRC among the masses and it may lose Bengal and Bihar next. The government should reconsider its decision and withdraw its decision to implement the NRC in the entire country and withdraw the NRC from Assam as it has already withdrawn the NRC list. Let the people of India live in peace with head held high.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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