NCR in Assam: New Avatar of Communal Divide and Rule – Praveen Pilassery

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The National Register of Citizens (published on 29th August 2019) identified nearly two million people out of the citizens list in Assam. Even though, those omitted from the list is not yet declared as illegal migrants, they are granted time to prove their identity. It is more likely that most of them won’t be added to the Official List for sure. It created a wild wave of responses on the matter in and abroad.  It divided India against Muslims as the ruling political beliefs are much concerned to socially expand the ‘politics of divide and rule’. It is in this context one of the AIR Programme Director and popular feminist critique, K. R. Indira’s public appeal to sterilize Muslim women came out. She wrote in facebook “people of Assam who lose their citizenship after the final draft of the National Register of Citizenship [NRC] had been published should be housed in refugee camps and sterilized”. Later she added “they [Muslims] have to conquer world by increasing their numbers. Birth control medicines should be put in pipes that supply drinking water”.

What Indira wrote is only a miniscule representation of the many stereotyped accusations against Muslims in India which were cooked and supplied from Hindhutwa political kitchens for a long time. Hence it is becoming a communal and political one than a NCR issue. Publicly asking for sterilization on religious lines is in a way supporting mass murder and demanding genocide. It is undesirable for a modern progressive civilization like India to tolerate it legally and politically. But the support received for the above comment of Indira was enormous (unfortunately as expected) which should move our consciousness. Regrettably, NCR became the fresh area of communal contestation and politics.

It is not the technicality of NCR but the humanitarian casualties it exposes is the real matter of concern. The so called ‘illegal migrants’ can be the people without identities due to war, natural calamities or other genuine reasons. Making State requirements like passport, national identity cards (like Aadhar in India) etc. as the lone badge of national cataloging can be a State conspiracy only. There are still communities who cannot associate with nationalities, nation borders, State tools of identification like animals. If we are going to barricade all borders of mammoth nations’ like India, it is nothing but the violation of expected diplomatic trust between neighbours. That does not mean the cross border illegal activities should not be checked. As the world is more becoming a nation without borders, we must become a part of our neighbor country’s development too. If not poverty, unemployment and under-development of neighbours will force its people to flee as fugitives to richer heavens even across borders.

It is evident that no other country is going to accept the above mentioned people even if they proved as illegal migrants from a particular country. Like Rohingyan refugees, they will become permanent international prisoners in this country. Whether it is Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, all these neighbouring countries are having not-so-friendly relations with India yet. Nobody will accept them. Hence where will they go? They will definitely look at India.     

As anybody can become a political or environmental refugee at anytime in India, making patriotic statements based on religious lines is not a desirable move in the present world. It is better to expand our spirit of universal brotherhood in order to gain international trust by discarding the short sighted political leaders and power brokers. Hence the people of rich, resource abandoned and super power India should welcome these refugees within our cultural diversity and make Tibetan Buddists, Lankan Tamils, Bangladeshi Muslims, Burmese Rohingyans etc. as our legally recognized brothers and sisters. That will make a metamorphosis in international politics and will make new model in addressing refugee problems.

As ongoing and growing enmity of communal hegemony on secular diversity is discovering fresh avenues of domination in a consistent manner in this country, the last martyr won’t be any religious minority but Indian Federalism itself. Recognizing the real enemy of our motherland is the prime responsibility of Indians now. The growing conditionalities to prove their national loyalty will make Muslims only less associated with the secular movements which are the agenda of communal organizations too. Hence the scholars and activists of minority communities, including those accused as ‘outsiders’, should show the political maturity to join and mobilize secular movements with the likeminded in other identities to claim the people’s republic of love and peace.   

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