Humans have always moved from one place to another and will continue to do so. Legality/Illegality is a concept imposed by the state. In that context, the NRC in Assam does not find any meaning. To be frank, I really don’t care much about the exercise itself. It was ill planned, done in haste and will not have any considerable results. There was no plan in place for what will happen to the people whose names are not in the list.
But what is strange is the social media outrage against it. Most of it is based on exaggerations and is complete distortion of facts. Like always in social media, people see things in black and white and completely miss the complexities involved in it.
First, the outrage based on the fact that 4 million names are missing. Absurd statements like the Assam govt. plans to throw them out of the state or put them in detention camps is completely baseless. Let’s get the facts right, almost half of the 4 million, if not more comprises of tribals and Assamese people who have no documents to prove ancestry or simply people who missed the bus while filling the forms. About 100,000 names (mostly tribal) is missing from the list in the NRC. My grandfather’s name is not in the list, while my parents are there. My parent’s name helped me to get into the list, but I never bothered to put my wife’s or kid’s name in the list. With tribes, not maintaining records, it is obvious that many of those names would be missing.
And even for those who are not in the list, there are no Nazi like camps waiting (like the mainstream media or people would want to believe). The Assam govt. has specifically mentioned that there will no torture or camps involved.
Second, there is a belief that it is being done to throw out Bengali Muslims. It’s actually not true, even though probably most people in Assam would also like to believe that. Many actually believed that the demographic reality would change in places, where most of the names omitted would probably be Bengali speaking Muslims. But not much has changed. Even in a Hindu dominated constituency like Dhekiajuli, Out of the 38,000 names missing, most of them are Hindu-Bengali and Nepali people.
Third and very important, none of the criticisms actually reflect the views of the ‘indigenous’. There are ample cases of villages springing up within nights, mostly near elections, and increasing the vote bank of ‘certain politicians’ helping them winning elections. Many times, these villages also emerge in protected areas. Now this is also one side of the reality. Seeing them, the local population, mostly the tribes, gets insecurity and feels threat to their land and language. Now that is another part of the reality. And this also works on hear say, where these feelings of insecurity get exaggerated. Will an NRC type exercise solve it? I am not sure. Instead the govt. should take up measures to actually provide for constitutionally warranted territorial and cultural protection to the tribes under the sixth schedule.
What are the risks?
The fears of those not in the list is not unfounded. This is where there is a problem. The only thing we know for sure is that the Assam govt. do not plan to victimize/torture them or put them in camps. The supreme court has asked the govt. to clear the modalities in which those not in the list can make claims by August 16. This is where the activists should monitor and raise issues. It should be ensured that no person not appearing in the list should be victimized. In fact, a lot of the activists in Assam are already doing that. So, the social media outrage where every Assamese is blanketed as wanting to drive away ‘foreigners’ is not true.
Deportation is not even an option according to me. It’s not like the Bangladesh govt. is waiting for them. Bangladesh does not even acknowledge the presence of illegal immigration happening. Also I am not sure if the Assam govt. is actually prepared to deport such a large amount of people. The Assam govt. definitely need to put in proper plans in place for those not featured in the list.