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

A Solidarity Meeting of Human Rights Organisations & Other Citizens Groups

Friday 11 October 2019, by siawi3

Source: email October 10, 19

A Solidarity Meeting of Human Rights Organisations & Other Citizens Groups
[( 11th October 2019, 3 pm onwards at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh)]

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

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!

The next ordeal

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.

The way forward

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.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) among several other organisations invite you to join us at a public meeting to discuss the citizenship issue and a way forward. We urge all liberal and secular minded people and groups to join us. CJP has been working on the ground in Assam since 2017, over two years now.

[(Date: October 11, 2019

Time: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Venue: Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh Hall (2nd floor))]

Apart from people in Mumbai we plan to invite a few people from Assam- lawyers as well as victims. Some of the lawyers who come will bear their own expenses but we may have to share the expenses for about two to three victims. Participating groups are requested to make whatever contributions they can.

The Citizenship issue/crisis in Assam as well as the implications for the rest of India need to be discussed; all the more so because as reported in the papers a detention camp is already being constructed in Maharashtra.

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.
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)

Please register for the event here -

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