Despite shortcomings in NRC compiled for Assam more states want to go for it

By Yashwardhan Joshi. Dated: 9/20/2019 11:27:19 PM

Will we end up losing our Indian citizenship one day? The National Register of Citizens (NRC), compiled in Assam, has stirred up interest in other States to go for such an exercise. From Haryana to Uttarakhand and from Uttar Pradesh to Jharkhand, the BJP governments are pushing for the implementation of NRC.
The party's units in other States-- from Delhi to West Bengal to Telangana-- have also sought NRC in their region. But if Assam's NRC is the trigger, then one can only guess how many will be shot down in other States. For nearly 2 million people-- close to 6 per cent of Assam's population-- were left out of the final list, many wrongly excluded on the basis of minor clerical errors in decades-old documents. Many of them were said to be born in Assam and have families that have lived there for generations. Many have seen the names of their parents and siblings being included in the list and theirs being left out.
If the main aim was to root out illegal migrants, then the NRC seems to be an exercise in futility.
Several human rights groups and tribal organisations have claimed that at least 200,000 indigenous people have been excluded from the final NRC allegedly for want of proper documents. Many non-tribal Assamese people have also found themselves on the rejection list.
Even the BJP in Assam has criticised the NRC as a flawed exercise, alleging that many illegal migrants have made it to the final list. "We have lost hope in the present form of the NRC right after the draft," says senior BJP minister and Assam strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma.
And those nearly 2 million people left out in the cold have now to undergo a long-drawn and expensive process-- prove their citizenship at a foreigners' tribunal that may take 5-10 years and Rs 5-7 Lakhs. How will they sustain their lives and families, let alone the litigation? In the meantime, they die everyday, thinking of the prospect of deportation.
Will the same prospect not befall on those residing in States thinking of going for NRC?
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said his government is not averse to carrying out such an exercise, in phases. He says it is important for national security and it will also put an end to the rights of poor being taken away by illegal migrants.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das is also pushing for NRC in his State and says the BJP government would identify all "illegal Bangladeshi migrants" and send them back.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is also vocal, saying his government would implement the NRC in the State. He says his government is already in the process of issuing family ID cards to the people of Haryana, and the same database would be used for the implementation of NRC in the State.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has come out in support of NRC in Assam as an important move to prevent infiltration, saying such an exercise will be carried out in his State, if found necessary, as Uttarkhand shares a 350-km border with China and a 275-km border with Nepal.
Lest one forgets, the Assam NRC was borne out of a 40-year on-again, off-again movement against "illegal migrants" from Bangladesh. It was based on a struggle to assert citizenship rights for "genuine" Indians and seek the detection, deletion (from electoral lists) and deportation of non-citizens to their parent nation, for the most part, Bangladesh.
But the clamour for NRC in other States such as Haryana, Jharkhand, Dellhi and Telangana seems to be more of an electoral plank. These States are going to have Assembly elections within some months. In fact, Justice H S Bhalla, former chairman of Haryana Human Rights Commission, with whom Mr Khattar discussed the prospects of NRC, says there is unlikely to be any progress on the idea as the Model Code of Conduct will soon be imposed in Haryana.
And If the Jharkhand chief minister thinks the NRC can identify all illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the State, he should well be advised to go through the Assam list again.
The Assam NRC, which even the State BJP unit says, has failed to excluded all those entering the State illegally from across the border.
As for Assam, the cut-off date was 25 March 1971, the day Bangladesh's liberation war began. What about the cut-off dates in other States that are thinking of going for NRC?
To prove oneself as an Indian citizen, an individual must possess documentary evidence. In India, many poor farmers and itinerant workers do not have relevant documents. How will they prove they are Indians? And what if there is some spelling error in our name in the documents?
Will we be pushed into an abyss where there is darkness all around us and no way to establish our identity?
It's a frightening prospect.
The Assam NRC tells us not what is right but what is wrong with compiling such a register.



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