Last evening I was talking to a doctor-activist who had very recently visited Assam to interact with those affected by the National Register of Citizens ( NRC), to listen to their deadly various tales of anguish. Many of the families stand fractured, with one or two members either falling grievously ill, if not dead or else thrown in the deportation category. As good as dead! Almost akin to plucking out the living from the established settings, throwing them here and there, leaving them to perish.
I’m writing this column in the backdrop of the rulers of the day declaring that the NRC will be implemented in the rest of the country. Also, in Assam, perhaps, there will be a repeat of the exercise to settle the so-called errors and the politically desired rectifications or whatever else comes along with that.
Last week the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, said in Parliament that NRC would be prepared for every state in the country. Till now, an NRC has been prepared only in Assam, where it was found that 1.9 million of the 329 million, who had applied for inclusion of their names in NRC, were not eligible for citizenship.
Instead of the establishment confronting the human disasters and tragedies taking place in Assam, it’s coming up with this bigger scare for the rest of the citizens and residents of the country. Quite obviously, implementing the NRC in the entire country raises some grave concerns on many fronts. Foremost is, how many genuine citizens will be hounded if not targeted and displaced in this entire citizenship drive? Though assurances are now coming up that there will be no religious discriminations but who amongst us is naïve enough to believe a word of the politicians and their assurances? If the Home Minister of the country, Amit Shah, can say that all is okay in terms of normalcy prevailing in Kashmir, then we have got to pause and seriously reconsider the assurances he has been lately giving regarding the NRC.
After all, it’s a confirmed fact that normalcy is not anywhere near prevailing in the Kashmir Valley, yet the ground realities are negated and it is said that normalcy has returned in the Valley. This fact can’t be overlooked that Amit Shah had in one of his earlier speeches mentioned rather too categorically that the members of the different communities of the country need not fear the NRC and that they will not be affected. Here it is absolutely pertinent to state that he had mentioned all communities except the Muslims of the country. Why? One fact after another proves that the treatment meted out to the Muslim community is biased and tilted, if not grossly violating the basic fundamental rights.
Other aspects also loom large - when there is an urgent need to reach out to the citizens of the country in terms of roti, kapda, makaan, then why the NRC? Instead of ensuring that the citizens do not perish because of malnutrition, hunger, thirst, disease and poverty, the government of the day is hell-bent on causing severe crisis along who is an Indian or who isn’t! At least they should first ensure that the Indians live properly and then go in the various other complicated directions.
In fact, the urgency with which the government is moving to get the NRC implemented in the entire country, is provoking one to question - is this some sort of a distracting move, as there will be so much of focus on the NRC and its deadly offshoots that nobody will be in a position to ask for the roti , kapda , makaan? And forgetting everything we will be left hankering after citizenship papers, even if we are genuine citizens of the country! Who will be there to hear us out, to even bother to know the facts of our existence here on this soil, for decades if not even longer? Who will rescue us, pull us out from the various detention centres? Who will give a damn if families are torn apart and divided because the vital citizenship documents were ruined in the flood fury or in earthquakes or in the various day to day disasters!
Shashi Bhushan Pandey: What a voice, what rendering!
I recall when this summer I heard a young student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Shashi Bhushan Pandey, recite Habib Jalib verse in a video, I was immediately taken up by the voice and the passion with which he’d recited each one of those verses…I didn’t realise that the young student was visually impaired, though I heard and watched that video quite a few times … in fact, whenever I felt low and disillusioned with the ways of the system and governance, I heard him again. I felt my restlessness settling down after hearing him and seeing the other students too humming along with him the intense and rebellious verse by Habib Jalib.
It is now, with the media focus on this student after he was roughed up and beaten by the cops during the recent protests by the students of JNU, that I realised that he’s the same student whose voice had fascinated me all these months …Yes, he is Shashi Bhushan Pandey, a visually-impaired councillor of the university students’ union. He hails from a middle-class family of Eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur and what’s astonishing is that he fends for himself on the financial front…From what I have gathered, again from the media reports, is that his father passed away and his mother is a homemaker in Gorakhpur, so this young visually impaired student has taken upon himself the responsibility of fending for himself.
Instead of the State reaching out to him in terms of financial and placement support, it’s quite the opposite - it was horrifying to know the Delhi policemen roughed him up, passing unsettling comments.
Look what is happening to our genuine citizens! What treatment is meted out to the young of the country!
Students of the calibre and courage and conviction of Shashi Bhushan Pandey hold out hope. In fact, the only hope that we should carefully preserve.