The controversy created by the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam that excludes 40 lakh people could overshadow many other vital issues ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary polls. In fact, the uproar from the Sangh perspective works out totally in favour of the BJP, which is seeking to renew its mandate next year. The issue is extremely divisive, and is consistent with the poll strategy of the saffron brigade, which has used various tactics to win elections behind the facade of the development agenda. It, therefore, is not surprising that the BJP on one hand has already declared the 40 lakh people whose names do not figure in the NRC draft as infiltrators and on the other, its government’s senior functionaries such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh have made it amply clear that there is no cause for any Indian citizen to be anxious. The underlining objective is that the term “infiltrators” is being used to describe Bangladesh Muslim migrants, while the Centre has adopted a stance of fair play, so far as Indians are concerned, thereby leaving little room for the Opposition to question its credentials.
The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has taken up cudgels on behalf of residents whose names are not on the tentative list, making her the prime target of the RSS propaganda that seeks to show her as a sympathiser of Muslims, so as to polarise the Hindu votes against her. Unruffled by repeated attacks on her, Mamata has launched a scathing diatribe on the Sangh, accusing it of hurtling the country towards a civil war that may result in a “bloodbath”.
Her statements have been twisted out of context by the BJP, which is working on an overdrive to create an impression that it was the Trinamool Congress chief who was attempting to precipitate a bloodbath, which is contrary to what she has said, or meant. The short point is that in the final few months the Centre’s performance is likely to be under close scrutiny, but the party now has an issue which it can seek refuge in. The NRC has furnished the BJP with the primary agenda for the polls as it could become the talking point throughout the country where security concerns would simultaneously be highlighted.
The probable aim is that any opposition to the Sangh inspired issue, would facilitate in reinforcing the perception that opposition parties and its leaders were anti-Hindu, and were solely interested in the appeasement of Muslims, and thus were opposing the NRC draft. As yet the government has issued no categorical statement that similar treatment would be meted out to those who do not find their names in the final list, irrespective of their religion. After all, citizenship status of any country is not determined by religion, but by the irreversible proof of a person’s origin as well as nationality. To compound the complications in Assam is the presence of a large number of Nepalese, some of whom have served in the Indian Armed Forces, and have subsequently settled in the state.
It is nobody’s case that Bangladeshis or any other aliens should be permitted to enter and reside illegally in our over populated country, where successive governments so far have been unable to provide basic amenities to existing citizens and the levels of poverty and deprivation are appalling, as per any standards. However, it is also equally important to ensure that injustice to any person is not done on mere suspicion and his or her inability to produce the requisite documentation. There have been reports that several prominent citizens of Assam find their names absent from the draft, which only reveals that the exercise leaves much to be desired and thus needs to be completed with due diligence and efficiency.
The BJP has, in the meanwhile, demanded that such a process should also be initiated in other states and its Delhi unit president Manoj Tewari wants it to be held in the capital as well. Delhiites are very well conversant with the presence of Bangladeshis in the city and also are aware that many of them have assumed Hindu names so as to avoid detection. The BJP had, on several occasions, made this into an election issue, but it did not make any dent, since in several middle class homes, largely in cooperative group housing societies, domestic helps are generally Bengalis, perhaps originally from Bangladesh. Therefore Tewari’s call could only create more confusion rather than resolving matters.
Tewari would be surprised that if an NRC type exercise was to be conducted in the state from where he originally hails, a vast majority of people would not be able to produce documents to conform to the parameters of citizenship as perceived by the authorities. The poor in every part of this country have to cope with their day-to-day challenges, and have no time to preserve their records. The district administration and the Election Commission have inadequate data, and this is the reason why many people who apply for passports have tremendous difficulty in obtaining the document since officials insist on various kinds of paperwork.
The bottom line is that the government must take steps to identify foreigners and send them back to their homeland. However, it should not lose sight of the promises it has made on various issues to the people. Emotive issues can win polls but they cannot solve problems. Between Us.