Issue :   
Happy Dussehra and Diwali to all Readers.          November 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


NRC: A remedy worse than
the disease

Syed Nooruzzaman

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasin
Many people anxiously waited for Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's reaction to the issue of illegal immigrants from her country when she was on an official visit to India recently. The issue has been in the limelight for some time, mainly because of the process of preparing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam where as many as 1.9 million people failed to get their names included in the NRC. That is why what transpired between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart relating to the NRC attracted more attention than any other thing they discussed.
According to reports, Sheikh Hasina told journalists at a reception hosted by Bangladesh High Commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali that she saw "no problem" with the NRC exercise, now over in Assam. “I had a talk with PM Modi. Everything is okay,” she commented.

Modi had reportedly told her that there was "nothing to be worried" about the NRC since India and Bangladesh shared good relations.

However, her remarks after the two leaders had a meeting in New York during the UN General Assembly session were that the NRC had become a matter of "great concern" for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi may have lessened Bangladesh's anxiety as, according to Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, his country was assured by India that the implementation of the NRC in Assam was an internal matter. Yet Dhaka will keep a close eye on developments relating to the NRC, he indicated.

Sheikh Hasina made a significant point soon after she landed in New Delhi. Addressing a meeting of the World Economic Forum on October 4, she suggested, "We should strive to secure peace, stability and harmony for every individual across our societies. We must move beyond the majorityminority mindset. Pluralism has been the strength of South Asian countries. We should be able to celebrate South Asia's regional, ethnic and linguistic diversity."

When she talked of the "majority-minority mindset", she perhaps wanted to highlight the religious majority-minority factor which has been used to ensure political domination, not bothering about its impact on peace and economic growth in the region.

AK Abdul Momen Bangladesh expressed its concern over the Assam NRC process for the first time when its Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told a TV channel on July 13, 2018: “While we should not be worried, there is some anxiety after reading news reports. We are already in much difficulty with the 11 lakh (Rohingya refugees), so we can’t take anymore. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country on the planet.”
Denying that the people identified under the NRC process were Bangladeshi immigrants, he said, “The people that have been there for 75 years, they are their (India’s) citizens, not ours.”
This shows that the people in Assam whose names have not been included in the NRC may remain where they are.

They are, however, bound to remain anxiety-ridden, though they have the option of approaching the Foreigners Tribunals set up for the purpose within 120 days of the publication of the final NRC. If anyone loses one's case in a tribunal, the person concerned can file an appeal in the Guwahati High Court and the Supreme Court. Those who ultimately fail to prove their claim as Indian nationals will be lodged in detention camps so that they can be deported to their "home country".

This raises a very tricky question. Where will these people finally go when Bangladesh continues to assert that there are no undocumented Bangladeshis in India? As it appears, the country is heading towards a major human crisis. It may become a big roadblock in the economic growth process which calls for urgent attention of the government.

Reports suggest that the government is getting ready to handle the situation by coming up with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was earlier adopted by the Lok Sabha but could not get through the Rajya Sabha.

The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to provide citizenship to illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians. It doesn’t have a provision for Muslims who also face persecution in these countries because of various factors. There is no mention of even Shias and Ahmediyas too in the Bill which will reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years for getting Indian citizenship by naturalisation.

Amit Shah Union Home Minister Amit Shah has clarified this point by saying that people belonging to these denominations need not worry about their citizenship status as a result of the NRC wherever and whenever it is set in motion. When he says this he only reiterates the promise made by his party, the BJP, in its manifesto during the 2014 general election that Hindus persecuted in the countries in India's neighbourhood would be granted citizenship.
But will it be justice to favour all excepting those who are Muslims?
If we have a closer look at the history of persecution of humans by humans, we will find that religion has not been the only factor behind such developments. Language and culture have also been major factors for people suffering untold miseries in the land of their forefathers.

Can anyone deny that language and culture had no role to play in the situation that emerged leading to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971?

Thousands of people who did not speak Bengali were tortured and done to death in the then East Pakistan.

The experience in Assam should convince us to forget about launching an NRC process anywhere else in the country. The search for undocumented Bangladeshis in this manner will amount to an invitation to chaos and destabilisation which will ultimately weaken the country from within.

Can we ignore the strong opposition being expressed by the Asom Gan Parishad, the All-Assam Students Union, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and others to the idea of favouring anyone other than Muslims by describing them as persecuted communities? These Assam-based organisations have stated that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will go against the cultural and linguistic identity of the ethnic Assamese. The Assam Gan Parishad has threatened to even leave the alliance formed with the BJP.

Many Opposition parties like the Congress and the All-India United Democratic Front have opposed the idea of granting citizenship to anyone on the basis of a person's religious persuasion. The argument goes that once the Bill becomes an Act, it will make the NRC meaningless. It can also turn out to be a remedy worse than the disease.

Many Opposition parties like the Congress and the All-India United Democratic Front have also opposed the idea of granting citizenship to anyone on the basis of a person's religious persuasion. The argument goes that once the Bill becomes an Act, it will make the NRC meaningless. It can also turn out to be a remedy worse than the disease.

Why then is the talk of launching the NRC process in West Bengal, UP and Haryana? Is the idea aimed at creating communal polarisation for political gains irrespective of the damage it will ultimately cause to the socio-economic fabric of the country? Is the ruling party ready to take politics to this level? Only time will provide the real answers to these questions.