Frightening Parallels Between NRC-Excluded in Assam and Rohingya Refugees

by GoNews Desk 2 months ago Views 1103
NRC
In both cases, the poor people, ecosystems, and regional cooperation are the victims

By Vidya Krishnan/thethirdpole.net

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Cover photo: Courtesy David Talukdar / Shutterstock

 

On December 22, 2019 Mohammed Sanaullah, a retired army officer settled down in front of his television in his ancestral home in Kalahikash village, 60 kilometres from Guwahati, the capital of the state of Assam in north-eastern India.

The family had tuned in to watch the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, address an election rally in Delhi, speaking for the first time since protests had broken out across the country against a contentious law that promises Indian citizenship to asylum seekers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, unless they are Muslims. In his speech Modi said, “the citizenship law or the NRC [National Register of Citizens, another contentious exercise] have nothing to do with Indian Muslims. They have nothing to worry.” The Prime Minister added that his political opponents were spreading rumours that Muslims would be sent to detention centres.

“Neither is anybody sending the country’s Muslims to detention centres nor are there any detention centres in India… The Muslims of India don’t need to worry at all,” said Modi.

Sanaullah had just experienced a different reality from the one the Prime Minister described.

The 53-year-old war veteran was declared a ‘foreigner’ after his name did not figure in the NRC list. On May 27, 2019, when he went to a Foreigners’ Tribunal set up to deal with cases like his, Sanaullah was placed under arrest and sent to a detention camp in Goalpara in Assam.

The 53-year-old war veteran was declared a ‘foreigner’ after his name did not figure in the NRC list. On May 27, 2019, when he went to a Foreigners’ Tribunal set up to deal with cases like his, Sanaullah was placed under arrest and sent to a detention camp in Goalpara in Assam.

“Where was I sent if that was not a detention centre? He is denying buildings that physically exist. I will never forget the 11 excruciating days I spent in the detention camp,” Sanaullah said when I met him in his village in late January. He has appealed against the order in the Guwahati High Court, and is currently out on bail.

( Currently those being detained are being held in camps within existing jails in Assam)

Just the beginning

Assam’s NRC list published in 2019 has left 1.9 million people out of those ‘deemed’ Indians. They now have to approach foreigners’ tribunals to ‘prove’ they are Indian citizens. A large proportion of those excluded are women. An appeal to a tribunal would cost a minimum of INR 50,000 (USD 680) per case. If even a million of those excluded appeal – and it is likely that most will – this will be a minimum cost of INR 50 billion (USD 680 million) borne by the poorest of the poor.

Meanwhile, the authorities have already set up six detention centres in old jail facilities and are building new ones.

No one has thought of the effect all this will have on the ecosystem in river- and forest-rich Assam. At least one detention centre – the one in Goalpara – is coming up in a floodplain. And putting residents of river islands – especially women – in detention centres has long-term adverse effects on the islands themselves.

Parallels with the Rohingya refugee crisis

The NRC exercise carried out in Assam has effectively created a stateless population twice the size of the Rohingya refugees. After the exercise, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. This is frighteningly similar to what occurred with the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar who, in 1982, were denied citizenship after a new law did not recognise the ethnic minority as one of Myanmar’s national races.

Myanmar’s citizenship law classified only those people as citizens who could provide evidence that their ancestors settled in Myanmar before 1823, the beginning of British occupation of present-day Rakhine, the province where most Rohingyas live. The ferocity and scale of the violence against the Rohingya Muslims were based on longstanding denial of the Rohingyas’ right to belong in Myanmar, after facing decades of being called illegal Bengali immigrants, just as it is currently playing out in Assam.

For full story go to: thethirdpole.net

(The facts and opinions appearing in the article are of the author’s alone writing in thethirdpole.net )

 

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