Who is an Indian? The Citizenship Crisis : Assam, India

Citizenship Crisis Who is an Indian

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A Solidarity Meeting of Human Rights Organisations &
Other Citizens Groups will be organized on 11th October 2019. Meeting
will be held at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh Hall (2nd floor) at 3 p.m. Citizens
for Justice and Peace (CJP) and People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) among
several other organisations has organised a public meeting to discuss the
citizenship issue and a way forward. CJP has been working on the ground in
Assam since 2017, over two years now.

Meeting is Supported by All India Democratic Women’s
Association (AIDWA), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), All India Milli Council, Centre
for Study of Society and Secularism, Democratic Youth Federation of India
(DYFI), Forum Against Oppression of Women (FAOW), Human Rights Law Network
(HRLN), Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM), Indian Social Action Forum
(INSAF), Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD), Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Jimmy
Foundation, LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, National Alliance of
People’s Movements (NAPM), North East Collective, Police Reforms Watch, Revolutionary
Worker’s Party of India (RWPI), and Saloka.

A spokesperson of the meeting said,

“Now that the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) has
been published (August 31, 2019) and over 19 lakh people have been left out of
it, different human rights organisations, civil society members and concerned
citizens are coming together to offer support to those excluded from the list.
Those who are left out include those from linguistic, religious and ethnic minorities:
Bengali Hindus, working class Muslims, members of the Gorkha community, people
belonging to indigenous communities such as Koch Rajbongshis, married women and
children. A large number of those excluded from the list are unlettered
sections of the population who are also economically marginalised, historically
oppressed and also from persecuted communities. Assam is also prone to
perennial floods. Access or possession of “necessary documents” to stake a firm
claim is itself a luxury.”

“But perhaps, the worst affected are village dwelling
married women who have virtually no documents. As most are not born in
hospitals, rarely sent to school and married off as teenagers, they don’t have
birth certificates, school leaving certificates or any other documents. What is
also shocking is how people like Kargil war veteran Mohammed Sanaullah and
family members of former President FA Ahmed were also asked to prove their
citizenship!”, he added.

He said,

“The people who have been excluded
from the final NRC are now about to go through a new ordeal where they will be
required to defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT). If they
fail to convince tribunal members of the genuineness of their citizenship, they
will be packed off to a detention camp to await deportation. 

There is no clarity
on what would happen if their alleged country of origin refuses to accept them.
Bangladesh has already made it clear that it will not allow entry to any of the
so called ‘foreigners’. Are these people then destined to spend their lives in
detention centres/camps? Isn’t this a violation of their human rights? The
government of Assam has offered no answers on this burning issue. Instead, it
appears more interested in hiring new FT members and building new detention
centres. 

Besides Assam, the
distinct possibility of an NRC-like National Population Register (NPR) at an
all India level and detention camps being set up in both Karnataka and
Maharashtra has raised questions and fuelled insecurities. These issues too
will be discussed at the meeting.”

“It is clear that we cannot expect
any compassion or help from a regime that dreams of replicating the Assam
experiment across India. The Union Home Minister has made no secret of the
government’s desire to have NRC all over India. Which is why, building a wider
understanding of and solidarity behind the issue is crucial, even if late. We
need to come together and stand in solidarity with our fellow Indians in Assam
and strategise on how to combat the divisive forces that want to perpetuate the
fear of the ‘outsider’ and a culture of ‘othering’. We should also work towards
building and sustaining support groups and solidarity circles in all Indian states,
both on the question of the humanitarian crisis in Assam and the prospects of
this kind of politics unfolding at an all-India level”, added the spokesperson.

The broad agenda is as follows:

(a)    Testimonies from Assam: The situation of
victims in Assam

(b)   The evolution of citizenship, Law on
Citizenship and Law on Foreigners in India

(c)    The Peculiar Case of Citizenship in Assam:
NRC, D Voters, from 1947 onwards

(d)   Foreigners Tribunals: Functioning and
Questions

(e)   Amendment already carried out for including
Hindus, etc. in the Foreigners Act & impending Citizenship Amendment Bill
(2016, now lapsed) that is likely to privilege some communities excluded from
NRC over others

(f)     Plan of action: Solidarity Groups for Assam in all states (Maharashtra) & Strategies for All India.

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