Friday, August 10, 2018

It is premature to extend the NRC to the whole of India

 (Asian Age, New Delhi, Bombay, London, Banglore and all other editions
9 August 2018)

How can one even think of implementing the idea of National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the whole country after experiencing the bizarre and haphazard way with which it has been executed in Assam? It will not only be premature to extend NRC in other states at this juncture but be a social, cultural and political foolishness. Is it not an indication enough that the process adopted in Assam was so seriously awry that more than four million residents of a single state are out of the Citizens’ Register?

If a process that ascertains the Indian citizenship keeps a nephew of India’s fifth President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed’s nephew Ziauddin Ali Ahmed, can we take NRC as the final word for telling us that who is an Indian and who is not? The deputy speaker of Assam’s state assembly was denied the place in the list of citizens. Even the people who have represented their electorate in the state assembly, those who have worked or still working in the police services and army could not find a place in NRC. Descendants of freedom fighters had been excluded from the list and they are now illegal migrants. A man and his family who fought the British in 1857 is out of NRC. 55 per cent of those dis-enfrancished in Assam are women

Under the process of NRC implementation, people who have been living for generations, that is centuries in places that were made part of Assam only in 1874 and still live there, were asked to prove their citizenship under section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The act provides a cut-off date of 24 March 1971 for distinguishing deemed citizens and illegal immigrants. For this one has to submit prescribed pre-1971 documents. This has essentially meant treating them as immigrants based mainly on their non-Assamese linguistic identity.

This part of the process was problematic. The people living outside ‘proper Assam’, the territory that the British annexed to their empire by the Yandabu pact of 1826 which is now called upper Assam, are all immigrants.  Their ancestors have been living in those places since before the Ahoms came into upper Assam in the second decade of 13th century. But most of them are declared as illegal immigrants. They are marginalised, landless and illiterate people who, due to their economic and social status, do not have the prescribed documents.

Poor and deprived section of our population generally does not have access to documentation. If in a state of three and a half crore people, 40 lac could not produce documentary proofs of their being Indian, just imagine what will happen if NRC is extended to the whole country? I am sure, millions and millions of otherwise natural citizens of our country will fail to satisfy the demands of NRC. Any such process is bound to create a chaos no will serve no purpose.

I agree with those who feel that Indian citizenship is the greatest privilege, because only those who have purified their souls by protecting cows—not cows of Bangladeshi origin—for seven consecutive births are reincarnated as Indian citizens. That’s the reason that just only one in six people on our planet enjoys the honour of being an Indian citizen. Therefore, even if a need to maintain a national register of Indian citizens is strongly felt by a particular section of our policy makers, I would request them to refrain themselves to go for a burton with an eye on immediate electoral gains.

Writer is the Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party.

No comments: