Future of Four Million Bengalis In Assam

The second National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has just been published. The names of 40,66,707 persons, most of them Bengalis but some Nepalis and others also, have not been recorded in the NRC. They have been given time until September to prove their citizenship. Those who will fail to make the mark even then will become Stateless people. Bangladesh will not accept a single one of them as its citizen. They will become Stateless. They will be denied the right to vote and denied of all the rights that a citizen is entitled to – from applying for a ration card to an Aadhar card. They will not be able to open bank accounts or take out insurance policies or seek jobs. There has been a body of public opinion in Assam which wants constitutional and legal provisions to make even the progeny of the Stateless people born in India to be Stateless. It is to be borne in mind that out of these 40.66 million people, 2.48 lakh have already been marked as “D” or Doubtful Voter in the electoral rolls. They have already lost the right to vote.
What will the Stateless people do? Their first instinct will be to migrate to other States, mostly to West Bengal. The first NRC in Assam was prepared in 1951. When preparations for the second NRC were being made, it was hoped that those whose names were registered in the first NRC, along with their progeny, will be automatically accepted as Indian citizens. But no. In order to exclude more people from the NRC, new conditions were put. The applicant will have to provide documentary evidence that previous three generations of the applicant, both on the father’s side and on the mother’s side, have been resident in Assam – a requirement even few Assamese will be able to fulfil.
The whole exercise is aimed at reducing the number of non-Assamese people, most of them Bengalis, in Assam. By making them Stateless it is believed that they will be compelled to leave the State, Where they go and what they do and how they survive is, apparently, nobody’s business. The authorities in Delhi seem to be blissfully unaware of the social consequences of depriving so many people of their citizenship. There should be a nationwide protest against this gross violation of human rights. All opposition parties should exert their combined pressure on the Union Government to undo this injustice.

Monday, 30 July, 2018