Assam: Exclusion from NRC a violation of citizen rights

Is a person who is not an army man or does not share the ruling party’s ideology any less Indian? What more is required to be Indian than fulfilling the requirements stated in the Constitution?

Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Vishnu Sharma

The people who could not find their names in the final draft of NRC should be seen not as minorities, although some of them are from a religious minority community, but they must be defended as the co-citizens. Exclusion from NRC is a violation of their rights as the citizens of the country for they have been living in India, even if they have migrated in 1971 or years after that, for more than the years as generally should be required to become citizens. If living for more than four decades isn’t enough to become a citizen of this country then nothing will ever be enough for it.

Fortunately, TMC’s Chief Mamata Banerjee and many others leaders are vocal about their victimisation however they too have been generally evoking humanitarian concerns. That means even if they are not “sent back” to the places of their origin there is still a possibility of disenfranchising them or mark them as D voters.

How media views it

Even the best of our media seems unable to understand the gravity of the situation. At most its argument is melodramatic. The ground reports are full of stories of people who “have served the nation” but didn’t have their names in the list. The fallacy of such “exclusive” reporting is, even though it raises valid point by questioning the method and process of the NRC, it still remains an extension of the argument that demands proof of loyalty to a perceived nationhood to be considered as citizens. Is a person who is not an army man or government school teacher or does not share the ruling party’s ideology any less Indian? What more is required to be Indian than accepting the constitution and fulfilling the requirement stated in it?

Even if the intentions of media houses are good, choosing to defend a few hundred by highlighting the “service record” is poor argument. It must focus on defending people who, assumingly, reached India after 25 March, 1971, and have lived here for more than four decades. By average Indian life, a man who was born just after the midnight of 25 March, 1971 is now 47, probably has a child aged around 17. The child would have probably passed the Class XII this year and could have entered a college of his/her choice. Even in country like USA people are allowed apply for citizenship after living there for five years on Green Card. And also as green card holders they are allowed to vote on local elections where citizenship isn’t a requirement.

Had this accord been implemented immediately in 1985 as the Accord mentions, it would not have created a problem of this magnitude that India face now. But implementing the Accord after 33 years and that too with the “original” provision is not just problematic but a cruel joke too. The government as well as the implementing authority should have at least considered this before they initiated the NRC registration process

Assam Accord: signed in 1985 and implemented in 2018

Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985, and it says “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.”

Had this accord implemented immediately as the Accord mentions, it would not have created a problem of this magnitude that India face now. But implementing the Accord after 33 years and that too with the “original” provision is not just problematic but a cruel joke too.

Government as well the implementing authority should have at least considered this before they initiated the NRC registration process. At least the Court is expected to apply wisdom in matters that involves sea of people who also are the most vulnerable. If the so called migrants were detected by 1985-1990, they would have lived in India for just 20 years or less and would be easier for them to go back to the place of their origin and start their lives again. But now since they had lived here for at least two generation, forcing them to go back to their perceived place of arrival is gross violation of citizenship as well as human rights. It may be politically satisfying for some but it is a supreme act of dishonesty and betrayal by as a nation which claims to be based on principle of modern values and democracy.

NRC is a warning to other minorities of India

NRC is a warning to other minorities in India too. Current Assam crisis highlights the fact that there are no real institutional safeguards for minorities (religious or linguistic) in the country against the manipulative thinking of political class and there are always possibilities for right infringement. The warning has even started to show in comments made by leaders like Amit Shah. BJP President had stated on record that those who have no name in the list are intruders. He has also appealed other parties to come clean on the issue of Bangladeshi ‘intruders’. Moreover, he claims to be fulfilling the promise made in the Accord by the Congress.

In India, idea of intruder or non-citizen is an ever shifting category. Going by Shah’s definition every Indian is a potential possible ‘intruder’ since it is not enough to be staying in the country for 50 years. This is a very scary situation not only for those unfortunate who have been excluded from the list but even for other people, who may be subjected to similar scrutiny in future.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of National Herald

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