Spectre of deportation gives Muslim women sleepless nights
As Assam’s BJP-led government is updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) under the hawk’s eye of the Supreme Court (SC), nearly 30 lakh people—mostly Muslim women—are apprehensive of being declared illegal immigrants and deported.
GUWAHATI: As Assam’s BJP-led government is updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) under the hawk’s eye of the Supreme Court (SC), nearly 30 lakh people—mostly Muslim women—are apprehensive of being declared illegal immigrants and deported.
A whopping 47 lakh people had submitted residency certificates issued by panchayat authorities as a link document to claim citizenship. The Gauhati High Court (HC), however, found certificates of only 17 lakh people as genuine, while others were declared as invalid. Now, the fate of the latter will be decided on November 22 when the SC hears a PIL filed by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) challenging the HC ruling.
Adding to the panic is recent charge by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief Maulana Arshad Madani’s that a conspiracy is being hatched to deport lakhs of Muslims and create a Myanmar-like situation in Assam. He had warned that Assam would burn and there would be loss of lives if 50 lakh Muslims are declared illegal immigrants. Taking exception to his alleged provocative statement, some organisations in Assam have filed cases against him with the police. The police are examining video footage of his statement made in Delhi.
“For years, the people in Assam have been living peacefully. Now, they are trying to destroy that communal amity. Ninety nine per cent Muslims in Assam have documents to establish they are genuine Indians. The Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad governments accepted these certificates. (Former CM) Tarun Gogoi has asserted umpteen times that there is no foreigner in Assam. Assam will burn if their nationality is snatched away,” Madani had warned.
Under the ongoing NRC exercise, names of only genuine Indians will be included in the updated draft with March 24 (midnight), 1971, as the cut-off date in accordance with the Assam Accord. As per the accord, which the then Rajiv Gandhi government had signed with the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) at the end of a six-year-long bloody anti-foreigners agitation of early 1980s, a foreigner (read Bangladeshi) who entered Assam after the above mentioned date will be declared an illegal immigrant and deported.
As per the 2011 Census, Assam has a population of 3.12 crore. The NRC authorities have received applications from 68.33 lakh families with a population of 3.28 crore. The difference of 16 lakh has been attributed to the growth in the state’s population.
The AAMSU claimed that people had submitted certificates of residency as advised by the government authorities. “To establish linkage with their fathers, women were told to submit documents issued by panchayat authorities. The documents were countersigned by officers. We have informed this to the SC,” AAMSU general secretary Ainuddin said.
He alleged that while the NRC is being updated, the police are harassing people by serving them notices suspecting their citizenship. The cases of immigrants are handled by some 100 foreigners’ tribunals based on police reports and there have been instances where people, declared Bangladeshis and sent to jail, walked free in due course by winning their cases in the court.
The BJP views the non-Muslim Bangladeshi immigrants as victims of the Partition who had fled the neighbouring country in face of torture and religious persecution, and as such, favours granting them Indian citizenship. But various organisations in the state insist that these immigrants, irrespective of their faith, have to be deported. The AASU has made it clear that under no circumstance should the names of foreigners be included in the NRC.
It demanded a fool-proof system to keep foreigners out of the rolls. The SC had set December 31 as the deadline for the publication of the draft NRC. However, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India told the court on Thursday that it could happen only by next July, as “hurriedly preparing the draft NRC may cause a law and order problem in the state”.