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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 34 New Delhi August 11, 2018

What happens to those excluded from the NRC?

Sunday 12 August 2018, by Humra Quraishi


What happens to our 40 lakh human beings! In the latest draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens, names of 40 lakh people are not included. That is, 12 per cent of Assam’s population has been left out!

Though those excluded from the NRC are given a chance to prove their Indian citizenship but this in itself raises pertinent questions—does the government expect socially and economically deprived to have their paperwork all intact and updated? With frequent shifts and displacements and also because of the flood fury that Assam is infamous for, a large percentage of these families do not even have cooking utensils or adequate clothing on themselves, so what to talk of adequate documents to prove their ancestral backgrounders? Their children and grandchildren are born in shanties and not in hospitals, so birth certificates are not in their clasp. They are not sure of the next meal; so what proofs can they gather to prove that they or their parents and grandparents lived or died in this country?

Can we expect lakhs of the socially and economically deprived to prove that they are Indians? After all, it’s the marginalised who are worst affected by this crisis. Today not just chaos and confusion but also communal divide is spreading out in Assam. Lakhs and lakhs of Bengali Muslims, living in Assam for gene-rations, are getting branded as Bangladeshi immigrants. Not spared are the Bengali Hindus, Koch Rajbongshis, also thrown in the ‘outsiders’ category.

Tomorrow, if the NRC were to open its ‘branches’ in other States of the country, havoc and civil war could spread out...complete anarchy. Are we heading towards another round of partitioning! At least, during the partitioning phase of the 1940s, the displaced knew where to head, which boundaries and borders to cross, where camps and shelter could be expected, but today if lakhs of human beings were to be unaccepted as Indian citizens, then what happens to their lives! Are we churning out another refugee lot like the hapless Rohingyas who stand displaced and uprooted from their own land?

Of course, there is a historical and political backdrop to this entire crisis. But what about the humanitarian aspect! Are we going to deport lakhs because they cannot prove that they belong to this land? Should human forms get thrown into the sea or into the jungles because he or she cannot prove that he or she belongs to the politically set parameters and boundaries! Because he or she cannot prove that his or her parents or grandparents ventured into Assam much before the 1971 war!

Immigration issues will always stand out in border States, where borders are not just porous but connected by emotional and economic considerations. Either we club the subcontinent as one, or accept those residing here for decades. Don’t tell me a day will come when we Indians could be questioned on our ancestral back-grounders! After all, the Aryans did come here from somewhere! Are you well equipped with adequate documents of your Aryan ancestors?

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