Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
On June 4, 2019, Indian Home Ministry has published a Gazette Notification, which is considered as “tersely worded” by most of the political analysts in South Asia. This notification of less than two pages carried the potential to alter India forever, to crush the fundamental rights of millions of the country’s most vulnerable people – the non-Hindus, and to subvert the edifice of India’s constitutional framework and to change the founding principles of the country. Although before June 4th, only Union government was having the legal rights of establishing tribunals to determine illegal immigrants and such rights were exclusive for the state of Assam – now the state governments or regional governments are authorized to form such tribunals.
According to newspaper reports, this momentous order, which carries the potential to foment social strife and alter India’s constitutional arrangements was passed without any public debate, let alone a discussion in the Parliament. It should be mentioned here that, during May-2019 general election, India’s ruling radical Hinduist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won a massive victory.
This Gazette notification is the implementation of Union Home Minister and BJP’s second-in-command Amit Shah’s electoral pledges of extending the National Register of Citizen (NRC) to all parts of India, so as to identify and deport “infiltrators” (read undocumented Muslims) who threaten India’s security — unlike undocumented Hindus and Sikhs, who are refugees escaping persecution.
Expressing dismay at this controversial order, eminent Indian journalist Harsh Mander in a recent opinion editorial published in the Indian Express wrote, “At the core of the systemic injustice of the NRC process is the reversal of the burden of proof. For most crimes, a person is innocent until the state prosecution is able to prove him guilty. But the burden of proving a person is a citizen is shifted from the state to her shoulders, and it is enough for a foreigners’ tribunal to conclude that she is a foreigner if she is unable to provide documents that satisfy this agency. It is significant that this reversal of the burden of proof was ordered by India’s highest court”.
“In Assam, the NRC has caused enormous suffering to millions of mostly poorly lettered and very impoverished people, who have squandered their meager belongings to pay lawyers’ fees to help them negotiate the hostile and opaque maze of the NRC bureaucracy and the foreigners’ tribunals”, he added.
According to eye-witnesses who have seen the process of NRC said, in hundreds of cases, in which a small difference in the English spelling of a Bengali name, or a small variation in age is enough for the NRC authorities and foreigner’s tribunals to sound the death-knell of “foreignness”.
They said, “If you have never been to school, you may have no proof of birth or citizenship. If you own no land, you have no land records to prove your residence in India before the cut-off date. And even if you do own land, land records are notorious for their errors”.
Home Minister Amit Shah’s grand plan for extending both the NRC and the foreigner’s tribunals to the entire country would actually turn the majority of the Muslims – both Bangla-speaking and non-Bengalis into stateless entities. They will be quickly branded as intruders from Bangladesh or Pakistan, and most definitely, Bharatiya Janata Party and their radical-Hinduist political affiliates such as Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena will beat the drums of expelling those “illegal intruders” thus finally resulting in the influx of millions of refugees into Bangladesh and Pakistan. The ultimate consequence of such notoriety may even result in communal riots – both inside India and the South Asian nations.
Taking undue advantage of such legal garb, radical Hindus belonging to political parties in India will go into senseless terror – which may even turn into state-patronized genocide on Muslims and non-Hindus (read Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs) throughout India.
In his opinion editorial, Harsh Mander further states, “The Home Ministry’s order also empowers the foreigners’ tribunals, which will be established anywhere in the country, to regulate their own procedures in hearing the cases placed before them. It further empowers them to hear an appeal only if they “find merit” in it. This means that a person whose name does not figure in the NRC cannot hope for a hearing from the foreigners’ tribunal if the agency feels there is no “merit” in her appeal. The experience of these tribunals in Assam has been that they frequently function with open bias or without due process. The latest order of the Home Ministry further empowers these tribunals to function in prejudiced or arbitrary ways”.
Rights groups and legal experts are already seeing the Gazette notification as “gravest violation of constitutional justice”, which would imperil minorities across India.
Definitely, Bangladesh will never accept such illegitimate and ridiculous decision of the Indian politicians of abruptly branding the Bangla-speaking Muslims as “Bangladeshis”, meaning, millions of non-Hindus will ultimately end-up in massive concentration camps, which are being built by the Indian authorities.
Some observers are saying, Indian authorities may not expel the victims of NRC or place them inside massive concentration camps but may be stripped of all rights of citizens, rights to vote, to own property or to enter government services. This is heading towards wantonly and recklessly manufacturing another massive crisis – must worst than the existing Rohingya crisis.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s political darling Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh has been aspiring of turning country’s religious minorities into second-class citizens. The June 4 Gazette notification has already opened the door for implementing that desire.
But of course, that will ultimately result in the fall of India and the creation of many countries from within. Mikhail Gorbachev is held responsible for the disintegration and fall of Soviet Union and possibly now, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, and their cohorts have emerged as ‘Gorbachev’ of India. We really do not want our friendly neighbor India to fall – but unfortunately, tendencies of the ruling elites in that country rings the bell – India is falling!
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter at Salah_Shoaib