Mustafa Ali Noor
As millions of Indians are at risk of losing their nationality following the publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), analysts are seeing it as India’s self-creation of the border crisis, which may ultimately lead to an extreme chaotic situation.
India’s far northeast is beautiful, friendly and one of the most ethnically, religiously and linguistically diverse places on earth. Multiple distinct ethnic groups share the hills, dales and great valley of the Brahmaputra River with indigenous tribes, tea garden workers originally from central India, ethnic Nepalese, and Bengalis — both Hindu and Muslim — from the Gangetic delta.
As in other heterogeneous parts of the world — think of the Balkans — old grievances have festered and new ones have been found over the years, leading to a sad succession of separatist movements, anti-“outsider” agitations and ethnic massacres. Now, the Indian government has decided that almost two million residents of the northeastern state of Assam may not be Indian citizens, and the state, region and India itself confront a crisis of their own making.
At issue is the National Register of Citizens, or NRC — a list that decrees officially which residents of Assam are legitimate Indian citizens and which aren’t. After an expensive, multi-year process, the register has excluded nearly two million people the government claims are illegal immigrants, many of whom supposedly migrated to India from Bangladesh after the latter declared independence in 1971.
The result seems to have pleased nobody — not even the NRC’s original supporters among Hindu nationalists and Assamese ethnic hardliners. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules in both New Delhi and Assam’s capital of Guwahati, is furious that the list is not composed entirely of Muslims whom they could attack as Bangladeshi “infiltrators.” The “grave threat” posed by a supposed flood of Bangladeshi Muslims may never have been reflected in Assam’s census data, and has now been exploded by the NRC, but it remains politically vital for the BJP.
Assamese hardliners, meanwhile, are concerned that so few people — only 7 percent of Assam’s official population — have been excluded. They remain convinced that “outsiders” number in the tens of millions.
Liberals from the rest of India are appalled at the injustice of the process, which placed an intolerable burden on poor and marginal residents of Assam to provide paperwork proving their families lived in India prior to 1971. This has led to predictable chaos. Mothers have seen their children left off the list. Wives have found husbands excluded; one sibling has been declared Indian, the other not.
The end result is a needless crisis. What will India do with the two million people left off the register? Some can apply now to citizenship tribunals, but these are notoriously unfair, particularly to Muslims. Bangladesh will not take them, and India’s foreign minister has in any case told Dhaka that the NRC is an “internal matter.” Will they be put into giant detention camps, with families split apart and their basic rights taken away? Will a permanent underclass of the disenfranchised be created? An India that would countenance such an outcome would be unrecognizable as a liberal democracy.
Meanwhile, some of the leaders of radical Hinduist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have started a campaign of continuing NRC in other states in India thus turning the country into a Hindu republic. Few of them even are calling for re-formation of “undivided India” by annexing Pakistan and Bangladesh. Some of those radical Hinduist leaders are even plotting of subversive activities inside Pakistan and Bangladesh with the ulterior motive of destabilizing peace and security. Sitting in Tripura, one of the local BJP leaders have been regularly making offensive posts in his Facebook account, while he also has been giving instigations to the “children of Hindu India” to “wage war against non-Hindus in India and compel them” in fleeing to Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Commenting on the initiative of NRC as well as instigative statements by the leaders of the ruling party, analysts say, for past five-plus years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has miserably failed in addressing key issues such as resolving economic crisis and unemployment. India has failed in drawing expected foreign investments as most of the foreign investors are unwilling in putting their money into gamble during radical Hinduist Narendra Modi’s rule.