Understanding the Assam NRC row: Politics, citizenship and beyond

Md. Sharif Hasan
Published : 22:26, Sep 03, 2019 | Updated : 22:30, Sep 03, 2019

Md. Sharif HasanAlmost Two million people, nearly half of the population of Croatia, will no longer be Indian citizens, according to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The decision was made by the state government of Assam recently when it announced its final version of citizen list. They've been excluded from citizens’ list in the north-eastern state of Assam, in a process the government claims will "weed out" illegal immigrants. People left-off the list will have four months to prove they're not foreigners or face detention.
Citizenship and identity have been fraught issues in Assam for decades. The National Register of Citizens was first created in 1951 to figure out who came to the state before neighbouring Bangladesh proclaimed independence from Pakistan.
As it stands, the purpose it serves is effectively to create statelessness. It’s important to understand the context in which this registration occurs. It occurs in the backdrop of the recent Indian General Election won by the nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a watchman security-based nationalist platform. In recent times, there’s been the annexation of Kashmir and now in Assam, the world’s noticing a group of residents primarily Muslims being targeted by this registration process. IT appears designed to create statelessness to change the demographics of Assam and to unfairly exclude non-Hindu religious and ethnic-religious minorities.
If there was a genuine attempt to confirm who’s a citizen of India and who’s not, then, perhaps the place that you would begin that process wouldn’t be Assam. You would begin IT by outlining to the people that it IS not targeting the Muslim population, that Muslims will be treated fairly and you would reaffirm India’s secular founding principles as a country that’s also multi-religious and multi-ethnic. That hasn’t occurred. What’s happened is a lot of noise from Hindu nationalists who dominated the exercise. The Finance Minister of Assam and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has reiterated: ‘BJP will stand by legal Hindu migrants and we will pursue their cases so that we can later extradite the illegal ones to Bangladesh.’’ Reading between the lines, it is important to note that he has already expressed the view that he is unhappy with the outcome, mainly because there have been not enough people who have been excluded from the Muslim population. And, he expects those Hindus that have been listed on the list as not legitimate citizens of India that they’ll be given some solace through government processes soon. Analysts note that is a process that is designed to change demographics and to target the Muslim population in Assam who makes up a third of the state's population.
Indian security personnel patrol on a road ahead of the publication of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Kachari Para village, in Hojai district, Assam, August 30, 2019. REUTERSSTRONG REASONS FOR CONCERN FOR BANGLADESH
Albeit New Delhi says that it is India's 'internal matter' however major doubts remain about the future in Assam about the minorities. Dhaka which earlier embraced a cautious approach has now reposed its trust in what New Delhi has said.
The territory of Indians being left off India's national citizens register would be unfortunate for the individuals who in this manner are made stateless, their description as heir 'outside infiltrators' or 'illegal immigrants ' suggests that they could be from Bangladesh in view of the nearest neighbourhood having individuals that speak Bangla.
The Assam citizens register incident bears obvious parallels with Myanmar’s expulsion of Rohingya sans rights and securities, outlining a similar citizenship act — it is the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law for the Rohingyas, who are predominantly Muslims, and it is the revised Citizenship Act of 1955 for the individuals being referred to in Assam, who are both Hindus and Muslims speaking Bangla.
The citizens register update move IN India could likewise be a ploy like what Myanmar did with the Rohingyas, forcing them, more than 1.1 million so far, to escape to Bangladesh. India was in complicity with Myanmar in driving out the Rohingyas into Bangladesh. India did not lift its finger to stop the Rohingya influx.
It is of concern to us as a result of articulations made beforehand by Indian politicians that insinuated that the people who should be excluded were illegal immigrants, who had originated from Bangladesh and had no right to stay in India. Therefore, the possibility that these individuals would be deported and pushed into Bangladesh isn't outlandish.
Bangladesh has strong reasons for worries about the conceivable fallout of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and our foreign ministry should have a sure footing on the issue before it escalates into a major crisis. As Assam lies just on the border, Dhaka must voice its worry strongly with New Delhi, in regional and multilateral forums.
Md. Sharif Hasan is a faculty of International Relations at the University of Rajshahi.

***The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions and views of Bangla Tribune.