In just matter of some months, millions of people in Assam would be stripped off their citizenship and all the rights that they enjoy as a virtue of it. They would soon become alien in a country that they have been residing since many decades. The new NRC list, which was released to honour the Assam Accord signed in 1985 by the then government, has excluded almost 4 million people from it, most of whom wouldn’t even have been born back then.
It is true that no country in this tumultuous world of scarce resources and looming security threats wants to burden itself with illegal immigrants. And the situation is no different for India. It is in no condition to look after lakhs of people who have illegally migrated from across the borders and defend tjemselves against the extremist elements that may sneak in as a result of wave of radical Islam that has gripped many of its neighbours.
But at the same time it is also very important to uphold the age-old tradition of the land, of accepting people who have sought asylum by conferring them with shelter. Thereby, it becomes imperative for India to continue its culture of “Vasudheiva kutumbakam” and thus not to treat these people as ‘criminals’ and show some respect and compassion towards them. And utmost caution and care should be exercised by the authorities that even if a few illegal immigrants remain unidentified, no true Indian citizen should lose her/his citizenship right as a result of any sort of chinks in the process. And if it fails to do so, then it would be a grave travesty of justice.
To get few things correct, we need to reassess the whole process and framework of identifying these illegal immigrants, as the whole plan is based on an agreement that was signed 33 years back and couldn’t be implemented since then. A lot has changed since then and a new action-plan to take these changes into account should be drafted. Most importantly it should mull over whether the 1971 threshold can be moved a little forward. Appropriate arrangements will have to be made to deal with a situation in which applicants might have lost their documents due to various reasons such as flood, which is very recurrent and common in Assam. Furthermore, the most important part is to chalk out a contingency plan for all those people whose name will occur in the final draft.
But the most appalling part of all this has been the brazen political slugfest that has played out after the release of NRC. Words like “ghuspethiye”(infiltrators) have been used to describe these people and the issue has been openly raised in public rallies to suck all the political mileage out of their suffering by none other than the National president of the ruling party in the state. Another prominent member from the ruling party wants these people to be shot, if they don’t return. Congress is silent about the issue and seems to be rather more worried about falling into BJP’s trap and losing out on the Hindu votes. Mamta Banerjee, who while in the opposition, some years back, staunchly wanted these illegal immigrants to be deported is now pretending to be the biggest messiah of these people. Every party has taken a stand entirely based on their political equations. Amid all these chaos the people of Assam are feeling increasingly let down and betrayed.