NRC apprehensions

The fear that several lakh Bengali-speaking people, both Hindu and Muslim, living for generations in Assam may find themselves denied of voting and citizenship rights continues to haunt the Bengalis of Assam. The repeated assurance given by the authorities that all ‘genuine’ Indian citizens have nothing to fear has not abated the fear because who is genuine and who is not has not been defined. In the second revision of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is going on now, several documents have been specified which will have to be produced by those whose names have been omitted from the first draft of the NRC. Many in the remote rural areas may fail to produce the necessary documents. The question that hangs heavy in their minds is what will ultimately happen to them.
This is a question which must be answered by the Union and State Governments. They will have nowhere to go. Being deprived of citizenship they will get no jobs and will not get any facilities available to the citizens. If so many people suddenly find themselves Stateless, it will have its inevitable political repercussions. Extremist and secessionist elements may find a favourable breeding ground among these disgruntled people. What happens when large sections of the people feel alienated from their country is being witnessed every day in the troubled Kashmir valley which is virtually become a boiling cauldron. Should such a situation be allowed to develop in Assam, which is a sensitive border State?
There can be only one rational approach to the so-called foreigners’ problem in Assam. That approach is conceding the reality that those who are already there and have been living permanently will be there; they cannot be “sent back” anywhere because they have nowhere to go. If people from Bangladesh are still infiltrating into Assam, the responsibility for this will primarily fall on the shoulders of the Centre and then on the State Government. The BJP has long been accusing the Congress of having encouraged Muslim immigration from Bangladesh for vote bank politics. Now that the BJP is ruling both at the Centre and in Assam, this excuse will not do. The Centre has to clarify its stand with regard to those lakhs who will not find their names in the final NRC.

Thursday, 20 September, 2018