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Supreme Court remarks on illegal detention fly in face of India’s constitutional and international obligations: CHRI

May 5, 2019
Supreme Court of India. Photo The Hindu

Supreme Court of India. Image: The Hindu

New Delhi, May 1

The Supreme Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has urged.

The following is the text of the statement, issued today, and signed by a group of eminent citizens including former Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur, Wajahat Habibullah, CHRI’s Chair and former Chief Information Commissioner, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and a number of senior former officials and civil society leaders:

As concerned citizens, we look to the Supreme Court to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on sensitive issues.  That is why we are disappointed by recent statements by the Chief Justice of India on a complex matter relating to illegal detention and deportation, without heeding India’s own constitutional and international obligations.

While advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’, the Chief Justice brushed aside the Assam Chief Secretary with a stinging admonition for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who had been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry. This was especially of concern for the case concerned the wilful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are “inhuman conditions”.

We regard these remarks as unfortunate.

Article 21 is very clear in its intent, ambit and process. It binds all duty-holders and citizens with the ringing affirmation that no person in India (and we emphasize that there no special privileges here for Indian citizens) can be deprived of her/his right to life and liberty without due process.

NRC

NRC Official Logo

There is no deportation agreement with Bangladesh. International law lays down that such deportations can take place only with the consent of the country of origin. Bangladesh has consistently refused to accept that its citizens migrate in large numbers to India. Indeed, Bangladesh regards such unilateral efforts as harmful to a bilateral relationship that is critical for the security and stability of both countries and especially of our eastern region.

We cannot place ourselves in a situation where we are seen as forcing people out at gunpoint; it would be ethically unjust, wrong in law and draw international condemnation.

We are acutely sensitive to concerns in Assam and other parts of the North-east and across the country about the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh, a long-standing issue that has defied official proclamations and pledges of “push back”, “deportation” and “detection”.

Whatever methods are used they must be undertaken within the rule of law frame, be just and fair and designed to minimise individual hardship and tragedy. We believe there is a need that this is a tragedy of growing intensity which is gathering momentum as a result of the current National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam.

Accounts from Assam indicate that often arbitrariness not rule of law is used to define those who have come post-1971 from Bangladesh (of whatever religious denomination) and those who are Indian nationals.

NRC-FORMS, SABRANG INDIA

People submitting NRC applications, Photo: Sabrang India

Lakhs are in limbo and now fear that they may become “stateless” because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice.

Many of those at risk are from the bottom of the economic pyramid, unable to sustain the complex adjudication process needed to establish their citizenship. Large numbers are already in detention camps.

Although the Supreme Court mandated deadline for a ‘final’ list is July 2019, we understand that not less than 38 lakh persons out of the 40 lakh (four million) who had found themselves off the NRC last year have filed applications for inclusion.  Such a huge number of requests cannot be processed in two months and we urge that this not be hurried as the consequences are too devastating to contemplate. The efforts need to be steady and methodical so that the charges of arbitrariness, prejudice and poor record keeping, which have plagued the NRC process, do not stick.

It must be pointed out here that India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which its representatives played a stellar part in developing the language that all of us are familiar with in regard to equality, non-discrimination and gender.  Our international commitments are clear as to the rights of people affected in such situations.

It would also be unacceptable if any Indian of any religious denomination is harmed by negligence, wilful prejudice, wrongful confinement and prosecution.

Failure to address this critical situation adequately and justly would be seen internationally as a gross violation of human rights and a blot on India’s traditional record.  What is also of concern to us are social fault lines that could be exacerbated by insensitive handling that could leave many people desperate, particularly youth, with the potential of radicalization.

As concerned citizens, we appeal to the judicial system and the government to explore a solution that addresses the human dimension. The situation in Assam and inter alia other parts of the North-east represent unprecedented challenges and conditions that cannot be resolved by application of a routine legal framework which is designed to deal with individual cases.

Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson, CHRI

Members:
Justice Madan Lokur

Justice AP Shah

Ms. Vineeta Rai (IAS, retd, former Revenue Secretary  to the Government of India)

Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary, United Nations)

Jacob Punnoose (IPS, retd)

Poonam Muttreja (Member, Executive Committee, CHRI)

Kamal Kumar (IPS, retd)

Ms. Maja Daruwala (Adviser, CHRI)

Jayanto N. Choudhury (IPS, retd)

Dr. BK Chandrashekar (ex MLC, Karnataka)

Sanjoy Hazarika (International Director)

——————————————————————————————————————The statement is a verbatim reproduction from CHRI website at http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/press-releases/supreme-court-remarks-on-illegal-detention-fly-in-face-of-indias-constitutional-and-international-obligations-chri

The final SOP approved by the Supreme Court on claim, objection and Correction procedure related to NRC

December 11, 2018

PLEASE CLICK THE LINK BELOW

FINAL SOP REGARDING CLAIM, OBJECTION & CORRECTION OF NRC

December 5, 2018

Final SOP regarding claim, objection & correction procedure of NRC updation assam.

UN questions ‘statelessness and disenfranchisement’ of ‘minority groups’ in Assam

September 26, 2018

Special Rapporteur’s report to UNGA highlights plight of Bengali Muslims

UN-Human-Rights-Feature-Image

The UN Special Rapporteur has once again raised the issue of possible statelessness of millions of people in Assam in wake of the exclusion of their names from the National Register of Citizens (NRC). This is part of a report titled Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that was presented before the UN General Assembly.

The 22 page report condemns “nationalist populism that advances exclusionary or repressive practices” and addresses “ascendant nationalist populist ideologies and strategies that pose a sobering threat to racial equality by fueling discrimination.”

Over 4 million people have been left out of the NRC final draft! Most of them belong to socio-economically backward communities and live in rural areas. Many of them are women and children!

On the subject of the exclusion of minorities from the NRC in Assam, the report says,

Nationalist populist parties in other places have implemented administrative and other rules leading to the exclusion of minority groups from official citizen registries on the basis of claims that they are irregular migrants, notwithstanding evidence showing that they are entitled to citizenship. This in turn has led to statelessness, disenfranchisement and increased vulnerability to discrimination, including the denial of basic rights and access to public services such as health and education.

In May 2018, the Special Rapporteur addressed a letter to the Government of India concerning the updating of the National Register of Citizens, a process governed by local authorities in the state of Assam. The letter drew attention to the heightened concerns of the Bengali Muslim minority, who have historically been portrayed as foreigners despite having lived in India for generations, even preceding the colonial era. Since 1997, the Election Commission of India has arbitrarily identified a large number of Bengali people as so – called “doubtful or disputed voters”, resulting in their further disenfranchisement and the loss of entitlements to social protection as Indian citizens.

While many have affirmed that the updating process is generally committed to retaining Indian citizens on the National Register of Citizens, concerned parties fear that local authorities in Assam, who are deemed to be particularly hostile towards Muslims and people of Bengali descent, may manipulate the verification system in an attempt to exclude many genuine Indian citizens from the updated Register.”

The entire report may be read here.

This is the second time the UN has taken cognizance of the humanitarian crisis in Assam. In May 2018, in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, four UN Special Rapporteurs had said,

It is alleged that the Tribunals have been declaring large numbers of Bengali Muslims in Assam as foreigners, resulting in statelessness and risk of detention. Finally, it is alleged that the potential discriminatory effects of the updated NRC should be seen in light of the history of discrimination and violence faced by Muslims of Bengali origin due to their status as ethnic, religious and linguistic minority and their perceived foreignness. Although the Bengali origin Muslims in Assam descend from peasant workers brought from the former Bengal and East Bengal starting in the 19th century under colonial rule, they have long been portrayed as irregular migrants. As a result of this rhetoric, Bengali Muslims have historically been the target of various human rights violations, including forced displacement, arbitrary expulsions and killings.”

In light of this, it is clear that the NRC issue is under the UN scanner and that given the international scrutiny it will not be easy for divisive forces to function with impunity much longer.

——————————————————————-

(The story was first published in CJP and is available at https://cjp.org.in/un-questions-statelessness-and-disenfranchisement-of-minority-groups-in-assam/, this is only a reproduction.)

INDIA: Minting a huge humanitarian crisis with national citizenship register in Assam

September 1, 2018

BHRPC wishes to forward this Written Submission to the 39th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre on the process of preparation of National Register of Citizens for Assam, India.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to draw the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council to the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) that India has recently launched in the North Eastern state of Assam and its far reaching consequences not only for the country but also for South Asia as a region and the world too.

The ALRC also wishes to draw the attention of the Council to the fact that the final draft list leaves a whopping 4,007,707 persons out of a total of 32,991,384 people who had applied. The exercise is accused of gross negligence despite being mandated and monitored by the Supreme Court of India.

The final draft is full of problems ranging from personal tragedies like that of a single family member left out of hundred plus members of an extended joint families to at places whole communities are being left out. Those excluded include even persons like family members of a former president of India, veterans of Indian security forces, policemen, kith and kin of legislators to the poor who have no papers to show.

Many of those excluded complain of reasons behind their exclusion being subjective biases and the inherent flaws in the NRC of 1951 and the electoral rolls of 1961 and 1971 that make up the core of the ‘legacy data’. There are many cases in which the direct descendants of those figuring in the NRC of 1951 having been left out from the final draft. The primary reasons behind this include clerical errors resulting in misspelt names right from the parents to those of the claimants now, mismatched relationships and so on. Most of the people being very poor and living in areas routinely affected by floods have also lost their documents.

There are also large-scale complaints of the sectarian biases based on linguistic identity having played against even genuine claims of many of those left out. Chief Minister of West Bengal, a state neighbouring Assam, has complained of Bengali speakers having borne the brunt of the exercise with about 3.8 million of those left out from the NRC, or almost ninety percent, consisting of them.

There have also been allegations about a systemic bias against Muslims, a religious minority community in India and Dalits, erstwhile victims of untouchability now protected by the constitution and listed as Scheduled Castes. Matua Mahasangha, a religious organisation consisting principally of Namashudra Dalits with origins in Bangladesh, gives credence to this argument and claimed most of those affected are members of the community.

The argument gets further support from the fact that India has seen a continuous influx of Hindu refugees, mostly poor Dalits, fleeing persecution in Bangladesh. Studies estimate the total numbers of those who came to India seeking refuge at around 11 million, settled mostly in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.

Though both the government and Supreme Court of India have promised another chance to all those left out to prove their citizenship along with no coercive measures against them till then, many fear losing their citizenships as all the documents they had have already been produced. Estimates of those finally left out are as high as 2 million.

Further complicating the situation is the fact of Bangladesh’s stern refusal of having anything to do with those left out. Authorities in Bangladesh have already called this issue an ‘internal matter of India with ethnic undertones’. This effectively turns those finally left out as stateless people with nowhere to go adding almost 2 million to already huge number of 10 million people currently estimated to be stateless.

That gives rise to the fear of large internment camps for those excluded from the final NRC list, violation of their human rights and another humanitarian crisis for the world.

In light of this, the ALRC urges the Council to:

1. Ask the government of India to exercise extreme cautiousness in the registration of the citizens and ensure that not a single genuine citizen of India is left out because of clerical errors or a lack of documents missing because of reasons beyond the control of applicants.

2. Ask the government of India to mobilise all authorities in the state of Assam as well as other states like West Bengal, Bihar and others from where many of the people excluded from the draft list come from to cross check their claims and help them secure their documents.

3. Ask the government of India to take concrete measures to dispel the allegations of discrimination against people on the basis of religion and caste and that nobody is denied citizenship because of discrimination.

4. Ask the government of India to urgently engage with the government of Bangladesh to find solutions in case of people still getting left out of the NRC as it claims that most of the ‘illegal’ immigrants are from Bangladesh.

5. Ask the government of India to not take any coercive action and deny people of their fundamental human rights and work for a humanitarian solution to the impending crisis.

(The submission was first published in the website of Asian Human Rights Commission and here it is reproduced verbatim for further dissemination)

Reading Kafka and Agamben through the NRC of Assam

August 18, 2018

Can State render its own citizens stateless post facto after they have long lived in a country? Can the state deny the ‘right to have rights’ to those who were born or are descendants of those who were born in its undivided territory? Ought courts of law, by decrees, deny fundamental rights to persons by enacting what is called ‘due process’? How many miles has one to go before one proves oneself again and again to be a citizen even after discharging all constitutional rights and duties, especially after being an elector who elected several governments? Asks Prasenjit Biswas

assam-nrc2

The categorisation of citizens into “D” voter, suspected foreigner and thereafter being incarcerated in detention camps have been part of the lived experience of several hundreds of thousands of the minority — both Hindu and Muslim population of Bengali origin people– in Assam. The vast majority of those left out (number is a staggering 40 Lakh plus), from the final draft of the NRC, are those who are Bengali Hindus and Muslims of Assam. Albeit many members of other smaller minorities like Karbis, Bodos, Mishing, Moran, Motok, Koch Rajbangshis and some members of even the Axomiya community are also excluded.

In The Penal Colony
The situation of this 40 Lakhs left out bring to mind Kafka’s existentially stark, dark and fatalistically charged ironical story entitled “In the Penal Colony” (1941)[1], where the Officer in charge of the machine as the last proponent of what is called justice machine, firmly believes in the form of justice meted out by the machine as ‘infallible’. The Condemned does not know that he has been given death sentence, as the machine inscribes the law that the Condemned has supposedly broken on his body in a quick span of twelve hours to lead him to death. The dignified European visitor called Explorer, who encounters such a ‘justice machine’ for the first time refuses to get persuaded by the Officer to opine to the Commandant that the machine be set free as it is no longer able to give sufficient punishment on the Condemned. In a profound reversal of meting out justice to the Condemned, the Officer believing the inefficacy of the machine sets the Condemned free and in his place sets the machine on himself with the word “be just” to be written on his body. The machine quickly stabs the officer to death denying him the mystical experience that the Condemned used to get from it for twelve hours before they were led to death.

NRC as an objective procedure, as per belief of some hardliners, found out 40 Lakhs ‘ghuspetiyas’ (infiltrators) and/or Bangladeshi foreigners and the only justice to be done to them is to ‘disenfranchise’ them and deprive them of all the governmental facilities except that they will be given only food and shelter. Many such pronouncements by important state functionaries and public leaders bring back to the mind what the ‘Dignitary’ in the Kafka story did: he only privately gave his opinion about the justice machine to the Commandant which cannot be given publicly and then left before he could be called to give an official account. This made the poor Officer believe that the machine will act according to what is just and fair, which also might have been the opinion of the dignitary given in private to the Commandant of the machine.

What Kafka showed is a paradigmatic existential crisis that lies in believing in a justice machine, which does not go by the very commitment and faith to justice and commits the most horrendous act of penalization of any Condemned. Terming the entire 40 Lakhs left out as ‘foreigner’ or ‘infiltrator’, sounds like a mass penalization, which of course, law in vogue does not permit. Home minister Rajnath Singh maintained that no action could be taken on anyone whose name is excluded until everyone is given sufficient time for an imminent ‘claims and objections’ procedure. Indeed the justice machine gets rightly guided and directed as per the extant legal provisions, but the condition of those who are left out remains what Kafka described as the Condemned. In the story, Kafka showed the role of the Soldier as only to guard the Condemned. In an eerie enactment of this, 200 companies of armed paramilitary forces are deployed in Assam and many districts are under prohibitory orders disbanding assembly of five or more than five people. So much for civil and political rights of people, who are now guarded by the paramilitary and no one is allowed to express even a whimper of protest in public. The ‘left outs’ are only supposed to seek justice through ‘claims and objections’ procedures or else, they are to go to appeal to higher courts, as the whole process is supervised under the  two member bench of the Supreme Court of India.

In such a condition, many have felt totally helpless and existentially ‘abandoned’ to a chilling future. In a startling case, a grandfather committed suicide on not finding his grandson and granddaughters names in the final list.[2] Similarly a farmer’s family, whose name did figure in the first draft finds it missing in the second draft as reportedly surname of his grandfather and his own surname do not tally. The report explained it as a practice in Muslim societies of Assam quoting the concerned head of the family, farmer Samsul Hoque from Hathisulapam of Kamrup district of Assam.[3] In yet another widely discussed case, litterateur and veteran journalist Shri Manindra Dutta from Silchar passed away in distress by finding none of his family members’ names in the second draft. He was particularly well known for his role in language movement of 1961 of Barak Valley of Assam. Earlier suicides of Hanif Khan in a place near Silchar on not finding his name in the first draft has already showed the desperation and angst in the individual and collective psyche of large section of people, whose test of nativity is connected to their ‘different’ ethnic origins. Indeed a new syndrome called NRC syndrome has arisen, and its social and political psychological impact can be felt on ordinary individuals who are affected by uncertainty created in procedures of official ‘satisfaction’.[4] A deeper existential symbolism arises in Centre granting crores to set up a brand new detention centre in Goalpara signifying the fate of probable stateless people post NRC.[5] What detention camps do, could be considered as a kind of indefinite detention, which even hard-core criminals do not suffer. Many lodged in the detention camps prove, after a complicated legal battle that they are wrongly suspected as ‘foreigner’ or as ‘doubtful voter’, but by then, a lot is lost in life inside the indefinite detention. In fact simultaneous procedures of NRC verification, issuance of foreigners’ notices and “D” voter multiply the possible victimization of many and it becomes immensely difficult to get any iota of justice for the condemned, as passing one test will be followed by another trial in many cases. From the first draft of NRC in which someone and half million people whose names figured after due verification of their ‘legacy data’ are dropped in the second draft as there are other procedures pending in their names. This shows the excruciating drift of the justice machine that can hold parallel trials.

Before the Law
The spate of shocking news and suicides did not even halt for a moment.[6] Only a few days ago, a man called Nirmal Paul committed suicide in a place near Katigorah in Silchar on not finding names of his family members in the final draft.[7] In another startling incident, little boy Haider Ali Khan who saluted tricolor braving flood water last year in 2017, the image of which went viral, did not find his name in the NRC.[8]

The NRC syndrome affects much more than mere 40 lakhs. As it is widely known that some members of a family are excluded and families are partly included creating the conditions of the syndrome affecting other included family members. Going by this at least two to three times more individuals than this 40 Lakh are affected in a possible scenario of being decitizenized. What is worse is every such probable decitizenized citizen will have to know formally the reason for non-inclusion and apply for inclusion again through procedures of ‘claim and objections’. Isn’t this an affront on ‘natural rights’[9] of being a citizen of India? In a democratic state like India, such a sordid picture of decitizenization is pushing the citizens beyond limits of human rights and human dignity? Can rule of law operate by creating such a penal colony in a manner of Kafka’s imagination? Can’t there be a more dignified procedure free from suspicion and hassle free method of verification without any harassment with sufficient time at hand? It is stated that NRC exercise is carried out in the supervision of country’s top court, but things are decided on the ground by the executive authorities such as Local Registrar of Citizens’ Registration (LRCR). The supervision is only partial in terms of setting the norm, but the ground level execution and decision are made by local authorites.

This again reminds another much discussed short story of Kafka entitled, “Before the Law” in which the gatekeeper of law does not allow one who waited a lifetime to enter the doors of law.[10] The doorkeeper informed the entry seeker that the entry door is made only for him, but the protagonist dies after a lifetime wait to enter the hallway of law and then the doorkeeper informed the man just before his death that he is going to shut it forever. Anyone seeking an entry in the NRC and whose name does not figure faces the potential “before the law” situation, in which their entry gets circumscribed by procedures on which they have either no say or no control.

State of Exception
One is reminded of Giorgio Agamben’s characterization of ‘state of exception’, where ‘homo sacer’ are reduced to bare bodies, stripped of all their civil, political, economic, social rights and the whole society turns into a camp and the State as the sovereign enjoys an absolute ‘monopoly of violence’ by enforcing law. Law is enforced by making an exception to very law itself and then by performing such an exception by an act of anomie, which also is an ‘originary violence’ involved in the very ‘force of law’. In other words, legalized violence in a state of exception marks everyday production of biopolitical bodies that lack all autonomy and sovereignty.[11]

The biopolitical body of NRC left outs of more than 4 lakhs excluded people is the ground of enactment of law of exception that throws them out of the sphere of legitimacy. The exception is made through the body of laws before it is enacted on the flesh and blood people. In the complicated legal architecture of NRC, there are several such exceptions by way of special provisions inserted specifically for Assam. Section 6A of the citizenship act, 1955 is an Assam specific section that introduces a cut-off date for citizenship for Assam, which is 25th march, 1971. This makes citizenship in Assam very different from rest of India. For example, an Indian citizen who is born after 1971 cannot be included in Assam’s register of citizens unless she has a linkage with her parents who were ordinarily residing in Assam prior to 1971. Isn’t this a recipe for dual citizenship in India? Exception is also made to sub-clause 7 of 6A of citizenship act, 1955 which clearly exempted people who are citizens of India until 1985 from any test of citizenship in the conduct of NRC process as this sub-clause is ignored in NRC procedure. If this sub-clause is taken into account then people who are citizens of India in Assam should find their names automatically included in NRC.

It is widely contended that citizenship for rest of the India has a cut-off date of July 1948, while in case of Assam it is 25Th march, 1971. The Constitution of India does not have any such cut-off date and categorizes people and their chances to be an Indian citizen are based on circumstances described in various clauses of citizenship act, and all these prescriptions define what is called a ‘due process’ to be followed uniformly across the country.[12] The thrust of India’s citizenship has been ‘universal franchise’ and certainly not mass decitizenization and disenfranchisement. If 40 lakhs are found to be not eligible to be there in the NRC, most of whom have elected governments in many elections, isn’t it a case of massive aberration that governments being elected by so called ‘foreigners’ discovered post facto must resign, if they are elected by these noncitizens? This brings into question whether a decitizenized citizen is same as a foreigner or a noncitizen who is suspected or declared to be so post facto. In case of Assam, suspected foreigners are often subjected to a tortuous process of trial combined with emerging psychological, ethnic and political pressures nearly break them unless they have an exceptionally strong socioeconomic background.

There is a shifting of onus to a citizen to prove his or her citizenship, which is a procedure adopted for an identified foreigner to prove her bonafide, but ironically enough an exception is made to this in Assam. The NRC procedure probes into documents of parental linkage and the procedure of verification by sending documents to the issuing authority kept everyone on their toes. In the verification procedure stated in the law verification has to be done comparing with the original has been extended to sending documents issued by other states to those states to verify them. This insistence has resulted into large number of documents issued by central and other state government not verifiable, which are submitted by applicants. This is how onus on an applicant shelved the responsibility of the State and kept the fate of the applicant indeterminate by the very process of verification. On verification, just as many documents were not found to be correct, although these documents are issued by some authority under law, the penalty falls on one who is issued such a document and not on the issuing authority. In yet another stark exception, certain documents were declared as weak documents by NRC authorities midway even after the first draft  was published terming many important documents such as birth certificate, citizenship certificate, refugee certificate etc. as weak documents[13], as a consequence of which, many names might not have been found eligible for inclusion.

One of the major exception within citizenship act is the idea of ‘legacy data’ by which an Indian citizen cannot be eligible to be included in NRC in Assam unless he or she has pre-1971 legacy in Assam. The other exception is turning the enabling provisions of 6A that enables a pre 1971 citizen to establish his bonafide without any testing procedure into a matter of onus placed on every citizen. Again, a undefined category of “original inhabitant” (OI) is introduced in 3(3) of 4A of citizenship rules and thereby creating an implied category of “nonoriginal inhabitant” on the assumption that original inhabitants do not preserve documents and they do not need to submit documents to prove their nativity, while in case of nonoriginal inhabitants, a strict method of probing including a long drawn method of verification is drawn up. This puts into question even government issued documents in case of non-OI people. Going by this, none residing in Barak valley was termed as OI and thereby showing how the process was interfered by implied discrimination between two categories of people. The historical fact remains that certain parts of Assam, such as Barak Valley and Goalpara were attached to Assam by the British in 1844, areas which are assumed to be inhabited by people who are not ‘original inhabitants’ of Assam, while most of people residing in those areas have their origins in undivided British India of Sylhet and Rongpur districts. Post-partition, the Constitution of India accepts the consequential effects of partition on behalf of people who suffered partition, but NRC procedures does not give appropriate consideration for displaced people residing in their own districts that are partitioned in 1947, especially when it created a category like ‘original inhabitant’. It is widely touted in popular discourses that people whose surnames could be found outside Assam, onus of proving nativity lies on them.

What future awaits these 40 lakhs nonincluded people? Many of them are born in India and yet NRC procedure did not find their documentation to be adequate. By creating a set of reasons and procedures that are not deemed in the Constitution, large number of poor, illiterate and linguistic and religious minorities are rendered in a near stateless situation. The procedures proposed in ‘appeal and objection’, as per reports allow an equal place to ‘objections’ that can be raised to any name included in the final draft of NRC. Some vigilante groups expressed their dissatisfaction over dropping only 40 Lakhs, as they believe that number should have been more. Opening up an objection procedure on a matter like citizenship will bring into play all kinds of subjective stereotypes that exist among people in objecting to their inclusion on the basis of religion, language, region and other such divisive social categories, which has the potential of upturning what has been included in the draft by causing huge harassment of again proving one’s citizenship before a juridical authority. This opens up a procedure of restarting a fresh procedures for crores of applicants, which also is a possible nullification of the very sanctity of the NRC process conducted so far. As the process is called ‘at the stage of draft’ creating unwarranted doubts about the validity of the two drafts that have already been published after spending huge public funds, a process of open objection will further emasculate it into an arbitration procedure, something that is never stated in matters of citizenship in the Constitution.

Pronouncements made from various quarters about deporting them to Bangladesh, or denying them fundamental rights is a grave concern from the point of view of human rights. Going by Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948, every person is entitled to the right to belong to a nationality and no person can be rendered stateless without due process, which has to be mandatorily upheld in any process such as NRC. Due process cannot be made exceptional by placing the entire onus of proving citizenship as nativity on a citizen, as it hardly conforms to basic standards of  justice, going by which someone’s status remain unchanged unless proven otherwise after providing all safeguards of defence to a person.[14]  If a process is judged by its outcome, production of 40 lakhs near stateless people is itself a great exception in contemporary history of modern state system in the world. Further 40 Lakhs get multiplied by at least threefold if we take total number of family members affected by non-inclusion of some or other of their family members. This huge number of people affected creates a condition of statelessness as their citizenship is perpetually suspended by the State to which they belong and are supposed to enjoy inalienable constitutional rights to be its citizens.

(Prasenjit Biswas is an auhtor, human rights activist and an analyst of sociopolitical developments of Northeast India. He is based at Shillong. His last published book is entitled, Between Philosophy and Anthropology: Aporias of Language, Thought and Consciousness, Notionpress, Chennai, 2017)


[1] Frantz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony” can be read from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Penal_Colony, accessed on 12.8.2018.
[2] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kin-left-out-of-nrc-assam-man-commits-suicide/article24627220.ece, accessed on 14.8.2018.
[3] Sumir Karmakar, “First-draft names go missing”, The Telegraph, Guwahati edition, Monday, the 13th August, 2018, p.1 continued to p.4.
[4] Subsection 3 of 4A of The Citizenship Rules, 2003 as amended in 2009.
[5] https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam-gets-central-nod-for-new-detention-camp-for-declared-foreigners-5274530/
[6] Please read this: https://www.firstpost.com/india/of-no-fixed-abode-govt-should-accept-us-or-shoot-us-says-family-of-migrant-who-committed-suicide-in-2012-over-nrc-4970971.html.
[7] https://www.facebook.com/100013635074015/posts/487795025018329/ accessed on 15.8.2018
[8] https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/boy-who-saluted-tricolour-in-chest-deep-flood-water-not-in-nrc-draft-118081501328_1.html
[9] Citizenship Act, 1955 does not prescribe that a citizen has to undergo such ‘testing’ procedures, while rules pertaining to Registration of Citizens and Issue of Identity Card, 2003 framed thereunder by the Executive too do not state such procedures. In such a context the Supreme Court approved certain procedures which are not stated in any text of law and empowered the Executive to implement those procedures. Large part of NRC procedure falls under such domain of Executive action. If anything goes wrong legal remedy is available, but how many poor illiterate people whose names are excluded from final draft can pursue such remedy?
[10] Wikipedia entry on Kafka’s “Before the Law” states,
A man from the country seeks the law and wishes to gain entry to the law through an open doorway, but the doorkeeper tells the man that he cannot go through at the present time. The man asks if he can ever go through, and the doorkeeper says that it is possible “but not now” (“jetzt aber nicht”). The man waits by the door for years, bribing the doorkeeper with everything he has. The doorkeeper accepts the bribes, but tells the man that he accepts them “so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” The man does not attempt to murder or hurt the doorkeeper to gain the law, but waits at the door until he is about to die. Right before his death, he asks the doorkeeper why even though everyone seeks the law, no one else has come in all the years. The doorkeeper answers “No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.”     From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_the_Law accessed on 15.8.2018
[11] Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 200.
[12] Details of evolution of procedures of grant of citizenship to various categories of people  could be read in Ornit Shani, How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise, Penguin Random House India, Gurgaon, 2018, pp.225-47.
[13] Letter No. SPMU/NRC/DistCoEquip/68/2015/PtIV/177 dated 1st May, 2018 issued by NRC state coordinator.
[14] UDHR article 15 stated, “(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” Article 11 stated, no one could be penalized unless someone committed a penal offence. In case of NRC it is assumed that erstwhile citizens, by placing the entire onus on them of proving that they are not ‘illegal immigrants’, it is deemed to be a ‘penal offence’ if they cannot prove by documents and to the satisfaction of the Executives that they are Indian citizens.
(The article was first published in Sabrang and reproduced here verbatim for wider dissemination.)

Urgent appeal: Include the excluded people in the citizens’ register (NRC) for Assam, India

August 6, 2018

On 30 July 2018 the Government of India published a draft register of citizens residing in the state of Assam. This draft register admittedly excluded more than four million people who submitted applications for inclusion of their names. These four million people are at the risk of being rendered stateless.

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017 (Photo: thehindiu.com)

Please sign the petition here

The main reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people include:

  1. Having no acceptable documents of pre-1971 as is required for inclusion.
  2. Having no acceptable documents to establish relationship with an ancestor who has a pre-1971 document.
  3. Non-acceptance of otherwise valid documents like school certificates and certificates of birth given by hospitals etc.
  4. Failure to verify submitted documents by the authorities.
  5. Non-acceptance of oral evidence.
  6. Not having an opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified.
  7. Non-application of subsection 7 (a) of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  8. Non-application of Proviso to section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950.
  9. Little or no application of Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 in certain areas including South Assam and West Assam. And so on.

However, there is still a window of Claims, Objections and Corrections which will start and applications from the excluded applicants will be accepted from 30 August 2018 to 28 September 2018. The disposal period and procedure are yet to be notified.

Many of the people who are at risk of being rendered stateless can be saved and included in the register if the procedure of dealing with, and disposing of, the applications are formulated keeping in mind the humanitarian aspect of the process.

Please sign the petition here

In view of this it is suggested that the following points should be considered while framing Modalities in the Form of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP):

  1. Claims:

(1) At the minimum, six months’ time should be given for submitting applications for claims. Otherwise, a lot of people who have their origin in other states outside Assam or who work as migrant labourers in other states or abroad will be grossly prejudiced.

(2) An opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified should be given to the applicants.

(3) An opportunity should also be given to the applicants to establish citizenship before 7 December 1985 being the date on which Act 65 of 1985 that incorporated section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 came into effect since as per subsection 7 of section 6A the provisions of section 6A is not applicable to them.

(4) The persons to whom Proviso to Section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 applies should be included in the NRC on the basis of direct or circumstantial evidence.

(5) While considering Claims applications, Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 should be applied in appropriate cases. One of the reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people is little or non-application of this provision in districts of Barak valley and West Assam. There were people inhabiting in the area now under the 3 districts of the valley for centuries before it was annexed to the British domain by the East India Company and later joined with Assam.

(6) Those minor children whose parent/s is/are included in the final draft but who themselves are excluded from the list due to defects in link documents should be included on the basis of oral evidence or they should be given an opportunity to obtain other documents including birth certificate without hassles. Otherwise, it would be absurd to think that such children emigrated from Bangladesh leaving their parents behind.

(7) In case of married women certificate issued by Panchayat secretaries should be accepted as a link document. Such certificates have been allowed in case of married women after a lot of consideration by the Hon’ble Supreme Court because there is a possibility that no other documents will be available for them. Supporting oral evidence should also be admitted in such cases.

(8) Where the applicants fail to prove link with accepted legacy person by producing prescribed documents but insist on the relationship, they should be given an opportunity to prove the claimed linkage by DNA test conducted outside Assam at the state expense.

(9) No original application or claims application should be rejected on the ground that the documents submitted could not be verified. Their cases may be kept on hold until verification is done. Verification is the responsibility of the state.

(10) Any valid document establishing relationship with the legacy person of the applicant including PAN and ADHAAR cards should not be rejected on the ground that pan card is issued after 2015 and ADHAAR card is not being issued in the state of Assam officially.

(11) Minor mismatches and discrepancies in names, addresses, ages and other details in the documents relied by the applicants should be ignored and the probative value of the documents should not be considered affected.

(12) Order rejecting original application or claims application should record reasons for such rejection in detail dealing with each ground separately.

  1. Objections:

(1) No objection application should be accepted unless the person objecting knows the person objected to personally and sets forth reasonable grounds for such objection in the application.

(2) The notice of hearing in case of an objection should clearly state the grounds of objections to enable the concerned person to prepare her rebuttal. Such notice should be served with all seriousness giving at least six months’ time personally by the local NRC Seva Kendra (NSK) officials. Unless there is an endorsement of the notice receiver, the service should not be treated as complete.

(3) Without giving an opportunity of cross-examination of objector no objection should be accepted.

  1. Corrections:

(1) Officials who know the language of the applicant well shall be entrusted with the task of correcting names and other details.

(2) There should be a separate system of transliteration in Bengali and other languages to avoid spelling errors in names and other details published in those languages.

Please sign the petition here

 অধ্যাপক তপোধীর ভট্টাচার্যের বিরুদ্ধে অপপ্রচার ও তাঁর হেনস্থার বিরুদ্ধে প্রতিবাদ

July 26, 2018

ড০ তপোধীর ভট্টাচার্যের নিবন্ধ “অসমে বাঙালির শরশয্যা” নিয়ে উদ্ভব হওয়া অগণতান্ত্রিক বিতর্কের অবসান হোক (গণতন্ত্রপ্রিয় সংগঠন এবং সাধারণ মানুষের যৌথ বিবৃতি)

বরাক উপত্যকার স্বনামধন্য সাহিত্যিক এবং চিন্তাবিদ তপোধীর ভট্টাচার্যের লেখা  “অসমে বাঙালির শরশয্যা” শীর্ষক একটি নিবন্ধ গত ৩/০৭/২০১৮ তারিখে পশ্চিমবঙ্গের দৈনিক পত্রিকা “আজকাল” এ প্রকাশিত হওয়ার পর থেকে তাঁকে ‘ষড়যন্ত্রকারী’ আখ্যা দিয়ে তাঁর বিরুদ্ধে   বিদ্বেষমূলক প্রচার চালানো হয়েছে। এবং বিগত ৮/৭/২০১৮ তারিখে দিসপুর থানায় তার বিরুদ্ধে একটি মামলাও রুজু করা হয়েছে। আমরা মনে   করি, ভারতীয় সংবিধান মতপ্রকাশের স্বাধীনতাকে মৌলিক অধিকার হিসেবে মর্যাদা দিয়ে এই অধিকারকে যথেষ্ট গুরুত্ব দিয়েছে। এবং সেখানে যে সব সীমাবদ্ধতার উল্লেখ আছে, তপোধীরবাবুর লেখাটি   সেগুলির মধ্যেও পড়ে না। তাছাড়া ড০ ভট্টাচার্য একজন অত্যন্ত নিরপেক্ষ এবং সংবেদনশীল ব্যাক্তি। তিনি আসাম বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের উপাচার্য থাকাকালীন সময় অনেকের  রক্তচক্ষু উপেক্ষা করে ২০১০ সালে ডিফু  ক্যাম্পাসে  “অসমিয়া বিভাগ” চালু করেন। তার দুটি বই “রঙ ও রেখার বিপ্লবে পাবলো পিকাসো” এবং “আসামের রূপকথা”  অসমিয়া ভাষায় অনুবাদিত হয়েছে। এরকম অবস্থায় তাঁকে আসামের  বিরুদ্ধে “ষড়যন্ত্রকারী” হিসেবে  চিহ্নিতকরণ মোটেই যুক্তিযুক্ত বলে মনে হচ্ছেনা।

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  তাছাড়া আসামের বর্তমান পরিস্থিতে এধরনের পদক্ষেপ উসকানি দেওয়ার কাজ করতে পারে। পূর্বেও আসামে ৭০ এবং ৮০র  দশকে বিশ্বাসঘাতক, ষড়যন্ত্রককারী,  বদন, ইত্যাদি নানা নামের তকমা জুড়ে দিয়ে বহুলোককে গুমখুন, মবলিঞ্চিং ও হত্যা করা হয়েছে। শ্রদ্ধেয় সাহিত্যিক চিন্তাবিদ হিরেণ গোঁহাইকেও ৮০’র দশকে অনুরূপ পরিস্থিতিরর সম্মুখীন হতে হয়েছিলো। সুতরাং এরূপ দায়িত্বজ্ঞানহীন অপপ্রচার এবং উদ্দেশ্যপ্রণোদিতভাবে রুজু করা মামলা সমগ্র আসামকে এক জাতিগত সহিংস পরিস্থিতিরদিকে ঠেলে দিতে পারে। তাছাড়া গত ২১ জুন ২০১৮ তারিখে রাষ্ট্রসংঘের  জাতিগত হিংসার বিরুদ্ধে নিযুক্ত স্পেশাল রেপোর্টিওর(Special Rapporteur)  এবং এর সাথে জড়িত  আরোও কয়েককটি বিষয়ের স্পেশাল রেপোর্টিওররা আসামে এইরকম একটি পরিস্থিতি সৃষ্টি হতে পারে বলে উদ্বেগ ব্যাক্ত করেছেন এবং এসমন্ধে ভারত সরকারের কাছে রিপোর্ট চেয়ে পাঠিয়েছেন। অধ্যাপক ভট্টাচার্যের নিবন্ধটিতে রাষ্ট্রসংঘের এই চিঠির পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে সৃষ্টি হওয়া কিছু প্রকৃত উদ্বেগের প্রতিফলন ঘটেছে। তাই নিবন্ধটি মোটেই ভিত্তিহীন নয় এবং কোনোধরনের ষড়যন্ত্রের অংশ হতে পারেনা।

 সুতরাং আমরা নিম্নসাক্ষরকারীরা মনে করি, ড০ ভট্টাচার্যের নিবন্ধটি সংবিধান স্বীকৃত বাকস্বাধীনতার বৈধ প্রয়োগ।তাসত্ত্বেও মামলা দায়ের করে আইনের অপপ্রোয়গের মাধ্যমে এই সর্বজনশ্রদ্বেয় ব্যাক্তিত্বকে হেনস্থা করার অপচেষ্টা করা হচ্ছে। অতএব আসাম সরকারের কাছে আমাদের আবেদন, ড০ ভট্টাচার্যের বিরুদ্ধে রুজু করা মামলাটি  অবিলম্বে তুলে নেওয়া হোক।

  স্বাক্ষরকারীঃ

১।  বরাক হিউমন রাইটস প্রোটেকশন কমিটি, শিলচর এর পক্ষে তানিয়া সুলতানা লস্কর।

২। নাগরিকত্ব সমন্বয় কমিটির পক্ষে- কিশোর কুমার ভট্টাচার্য।

৩। ফোরাম ফর সিভিল রাইটস এর পক্ষে শিশির দে।

৪। কোরাস, শিলচর এর পক্ষে বিশ্বজিত দাস।

৫। পিপলস সায়েন্স সোসাইটি, এর পক্ষে কৃশাণু ভট্টাচার্য।

৬। বরাক উপত্যকা বঙ্গ সাহিত্য সম্মেলনের পক্ষে সঞ্জিব দেব লস্কর।

৭। মাইনোরিটিজ ডেমোক্রেটিক ইয়ুথ ফেডারেশন নগাঁও এর পক্ষে আসাদুল হক চৌধুরী।

৮। নারী মুক্তি সংস্থা এর পক্ষে সিগ্ধা নাথ।

৯। আসাম নাগরিক মঞ্চ এর পক্ষে বিজয় চক্রবর্তী।

১০। গণসুর এর পক্ষে সুব্রত রায়।

১১। মুক্তমন, শিলচর এর পক্ষে দেবরাজ দাশগুপ্ত।

১২। বৈচিত্র লিটিল ম্যাগাজিন এর পক্ষে আনওয়ারুল হক বড়ভূইয়া।

নাগরিকদের মধ্যে যারা সাইন করেছেন।

  ১। কমলাক্ষ দে পুরকায়স্থ, বিধায়ক, নর্থ-করিমগঞ্জ, আসাম। ২। সৌমিত্র দস্তিদার, তথ্যচিত্র নির্মাতা,  পশ্চিমবঙ্গ।  ৩। প্রতিভা সরকার, গল্পকার, সমাজকর্মী, পশ্চিমভঙ্গ। ৪। প্রসেনজিত বিশ্বাস, দর্শন বিভাগ, নেহু, শিলং। ৫। সুকল্পা ভট্টাচার্য, ইংরাজি বিভাগ, নেহু, শিলং। ৬। ড০ সুরঞ্জনা চৌধুরী, ইংরাজি বিভাগ, নেহু, শিলং।  ৭। ড০ পল্লবী চৌধুরী, বিজ্ঞানি, ইন্সটিটিউট অফ সিস্মোলজিকেল রিসার্চ,গান্ধীনগর। ৮। ময়ূরী পুরকায়স্থ, টেক ইন্ডিয়া, পুনে। ৯। সম্রাট সেনগুপ্ত, ইংরাজি বিভাগ, সম্মিলনী। ১০। ডঃ অমিয় দে, রেড লাবান কলেজ, শিলং। ১১। ড০ নবনিতা সেনগুপ্ত, ইঙ্গরাজি বিভাগ, সরশুনা কলেজ, কলকাতা।   ১২। গৌরব সেন, মানবাধিকার কর্মী, কলকাতা। ১৩। দেবস্মিতা কর, ইঙ্গরাজি বিভাগ, বাগবাজার মহিলা কলেজ, কলকাতা।  ১৪। শ্রেয়ণ রায়, সম্পাদক, নিবির। ১৫। অরুণ বিশ্বাস, পরিবেশবিদ। ১৬। ভাস্কর গুপ্ত, অবসরপ্রাপ্ত চেয়ারপার্সন, ১৭। কল্যাণ রুদ্র, চেয়ারম্যান, পশ্চিমবঙ্গ পরিবেশ প্রদূষ্পণ নিয়ন্ত্রক বিভাগ।  ৮। রুপশ্রী কাহালি, শিল্পী। ১৯।  সৌভিক কর্মকার, রিসার্চ ফিলো, যাদবপুর বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়।  ২০। রম্যানি চক্রবর্তী, রিসার্চ ফিলো, আইআইটি, গৌহাটি।২১।  নিলাঞ্জনা সিনহা, টিইটো, মুম্বাই। ২২। অশোকেন্দু সেনগুপ্ত, পশ্চিমবঙ্গ। ২৩। দেবদাস বেনার্জী, সমাজকর্মী। ২৪। উজ্বল ভৌমিক, পান্ডু, গৌহাটি। ২৫। রামজ্যোতি ভট্টাচার্য, রিবই, শিলং। ২৬। ডি পি ভট্টাচার্য, সাংবাদিক, গুজরাট। ২৭। অপূর্ব মুক্তকামী, সমাজকর্মী, পশ্চিমবঙ্গ।২৮। সুরজিত রে, নতুন দিল্লী। ২৯। দিপংকর বসু। ৩০। সুপ্রীয় পাল, শিলং।      ৩১। চন্দ্রোদয় দে, ৩২। তমোজিত সাহা, কবি-প্রাবন্ধিক, শিলচর। ৩৩। জয়শ্রী ভূশন, সমাজকর্মী,  শিলচর।  ৩৪। জয়নাল আবেদিন লস্কর, দারুস সালাম মাজমাউল বাহরাইন, শিলডুবি।   ৩৫। অশোকতরু চক্রবর্তী,  রিসার্চ স্কলার,  আই আই টি, খড়গপুর।৩ ৬। মানস দাস, সমাজকর্মী, শিলচর।   ৩৭। সুশান্ত কর, অধ্যাপক,  তিনসুকিয়া কলেজ, তিনসুকিয়া।   ৩৮। চক্রপাণি দেব বর্মণ, কলকাতা, পশ্চিমবঙ্গ।        ৩৯। সাবানা মজুমদার, গৃহকর্ত্রী,  শিলচর।  ৪০। পার্থ রঞ্জন চক্রবর্তী, সাধারণ সম্পাদক ও সভাপতি কাছাড জেলা কংগ্রেস কমিটি প্রচার বিভাগ।  ৪১। কমল চক্রবর্তী,  সমাজকর্মী,  শিলচর। ৪২। ড০ শম্পা মণ্ডল,  লেকচারার,  সম্মিলনী কলেজ, কলকাতা।   ৪৩। আদিমা মজুমদার, গল্পকার,  শিলচর। ৪৪। ত্বাহা আমিন মজুমদার, হাইলাকান্দী, আসাম। ৪৫। দেবকান্ত দাস, করিমগঞ্জ, আসাম।  ৪৬। দেবরাজ দাসগুপ্ত, শিলচর।  ৪৭। শাখাওয়াত মজুমদার, ক্লাব মুক্তসেনা, শিলচর। ৪৮। সঞ্জীব লস্কর, সোনাই,  আসাম। ৪৯। অরিন্দম চক্রবর্তী, শিল্পী   শিলচর। ৫০। আহমদ হোসাইন লস্কর, ছাত্র, হাইলাকান্দি আসাম।  ৫১। আনছারুল্লাহ তালুকদার, ছাত্র, শিলচর। ৫২। আয়শা মল্লীক, ছাত্রী, কলকাতা। ৫৩। শামীম আরা বড়ভূইয়া, শিক্ষিকা,  উধারবন্ধ, আসাম।  ৫৪। ড০ চার্বাক, অধ্যাপক, আসাম ইউনিভার্সিটি।  ৫৫। আলমআরা বড়ভূইয়া লিনা, বদরপুর, করিমগঞ্জ।  ৫৬। ওয়াহিদুজ্জামান মজুমদার, ছাত্র,হাইলাকান্দি, আসাম।  ৫৭। অধিরত দে, শ্রীরামপুর, পশ্চিমবঙ্গ।  ৫৯। জমিল আহিমেদ লস্কর, শিলচর। ৬০। সোণর আলি, রাতাবাড়ী, করিমগঞ্জ। ৬১। প্রিয়াঙ্কা রায়, শিল্পী, উধারবন্ধ, আসাম।৬২। হিল্লোল ভট্টাচার্য,  সমাজকর্মী, শিলচর।৬৩। প্রদীপ নাথ, শিলচর।  ৬৪। সারওয়ার জাহান লস্কর, ছাত্র, আসাম ইউনিভার্সিটি।৬৫। অলিউল্লাহ লস্কর, আইনজীবী, গৌহাটি হাইকোর্ট।  ৬৬। দেবাশিস চক্রবর্তী,অধ্যাপক, কাছাড় কলেজ, শিলচর।৬৭। পারভেজ খসরু লস্কর, লালা, হাইলাকান্দী।৬৮।সাবর্ণী পুরকায়স্থ,  করিমগঞ্জ, আসাম।৬৯। সুজিত দে, এরালিগুল, করিমগঞ্জ।৭০। এ এম শরীফ উদ্দিন লস্কর, গুমড়া, কাছাড়,৭১।ফারুক আহমেদ লস্কর, বাশকান্দী, শিলচর। ৭২। পিযূস কান্তি দাস, সেভ, শিলচর।৭৩। মকব্বীর আলী লস্কর, বাঁশকান্দী, শিলচর।৭৪। আনিন্দীতা কর, ছাত্রী, শিলচর।৭৫।হিয়া দাস,নাট্যশিল্পী,  শিলচর। ৭৬। শ্বাসত্ব পুরকায়স্থ, করিমগঞ্জ। ৭৭। সৌমদীপ রয় চৌধুরী, শিলং। ৭৮। সঞ্জিব দাস, শিলচর।  ৭৯। অরিত্র বাবাই ধর, শিলচর।৮০। জয় রয়, উধারবন্ধ। ৮১। প্রীয়াংকা মৌলি গুহ, আলিপুর দুয়ার। ৮২। নাসমিন চৌধুরী, সোনাই, অসম। ৮৩। ফয়েজ আহমেদ , হাইলাকান্দি। ৮৪। পিয়া দাস, শিলচর। ৮৫। মাশুক আহমেদ মজুমদার, বড়খোলা। ৮৬। আনন্দ রয়, শিলচর।  ৮৭। সামসুল হক বড়ভূইয়া, হাইলাকান্দি।        ৮৮। যুথিকা দাস, কবি, শিলচর।  ৮৯। গোপাল চৌধুরী, কবি।৯০। জাহানারা মজুমদার, কবি, শিলচর।      ৯১। শহিদুল হক, সমাজকর্মী, করিমগঞ্জ।  ৯২। সুবীর ভট্টাচার্য, সাঙ্গস্কৃতিক কর্মী, শিলচর। ৯৩। বিজিত কুমার সিনহা, শিলচর। ৯৪। আব্দুল হালিম লস্কর, উধারবন্ধ।৯৫।  সাদীক মোহাম্মদ লস্কর, বাঁশকান্দী।  ৯৬। মিঠু বিশ্বাস, রিসার্চ ফিলো, আসাম বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়।  ৯৭। জগদীশ চৌধুরী, এন এস এভিনিউ, শিলচর।   ৯৮। মস্তাক লস্কর, লালা, হাইলাকান্দি। ৯৯। বিজয় কুমার ভট্টাচার্য, কবি-সাংবাদিক। ১০০। টিংকু খান্না, কলকাতা।

 

The Bengalis of Assam on bed of arrows

July 23, 2018

The most important truth is not being considered by any one that all the descendants of undivided India are logically and legally Indians. Even if their parents or grandparents might have migrated from one region to another, very much under the geographical domain of undivided India for whatever reason, no one can deprive them of their Indian identity.

– Tapodhir Bhattacharjee

Situation is daily undergoing metamorphic change. So long all the linguistic minorities including Bengalis have been waiting with suspended breath, when would arrive 30th June! At the stroke of midnight on 31st December, 2017 the publication of first draft of the national register of citizens made it obvious that the so called renewal of NRC is nothing but a well designed conspiracy. Thereafter, with the passage of time, the cacophony of Assamese hegemonism became progressively louder in various print and electronic media in Guwahati. The Govt. of Assam frequently informs the people through advertisements that NRC is justified, neutral and all works are being undertaken by the direct supervision of the honourable supreme court. In reality, this supervision is not at all direct; on the contrary the entire state machinery has become overactive in translating the predetermined decisions of the thoroughly biased Assamese hegemonism.

The state co-ordinator of NRC always refers to the supreme court while devising various rules in last few months but he himself has been wantonly changing them according to his own sweet will. This process has created severe crisis of identity for all non-Assamese linguistic minorities including Bengalis. The fundamental document for the renewal is the NRC of 1951 which actually was not found in several districts of Assam. It is worthwhile to remember that in 1951 the present day states like Meghalaya, Mizoram etc. were parts of the then Assam as districts, when these areas got separated from Assam, many non-Assamese inhabitants including Bengalis) of those areas migrated to various areas of Assam at the behest of their livelihood. During scrutiny of the relevant documents of the descendants of those inhabitants for NRC updation, it was found out that the state govts of North East are completely indifferent and unresponsive towards those people. The immense significance of this attitude is clearly evident on the NRC updation process. The same thing is being repeated with regards to the electoral roll of 1966. As per the initial instructions, the inhabitants of Assam submitted copies of that electoral roll containing the names of their parents and/or grandparents to establish their legacy data. But in many cases these are being ignored. For all practical purposes no-document is considered valid for the Bengalis in particular. The entire process in fraudulent. Besides dirty politics of communalism is an extra burden. As the pro-Hindu organizations are experts in spreading rumours, Bengali Hindus, whether educated or uneducated, are being led to believe that, in spite of pouring out poisons by the demonized publicity machines of Assamese chauvinism day in and day out, these are to be ignored. The Hindus will be saved by pulling some string in Hindusthan. Because NRC Process has to be comprehended as God sent opportunity to cleanse Assam of Muslims. But this opportunity is being seized by Islamic fundamentalists to convince the Bengali Muslims that language is not at all an important matter. In order to live in Assam without any hindrance, the Muslims are required to declare them as Assamese. In fact, in several areas of Brahmaputra valley, Muslims speaking Bengali dialects declare themselves as Assamese (that too in their own dialectical expression) during census. In spite of that, Assam witnessed ghastly genocide at Nellie and Gohpur. And, now this so-called ‘Neo-Assamese community is being subjected to humiliation during the process of NRC updation. Yet the thoroughly blind persons are unable to read what is writ large on the wall. As conviction about Bengali nationality does not have firm foundation among the Hindus and Muslims, they consider one another as scarecrows. However we find some infallible lighthouses in the midst of pitchy darkness in the presence of personalities like Moulana Sarimal Hoque, Moulana Ahmad Sayeed, Moulana Fariduddin and Moulana Alaur Rahaman Mazarbhuiyan. They don’t hesitate to declare unhesitatingly in public meetings that in the greatest possible hours of national calamities, we have to learn to live with our Bengali identity. We are to remain united as Bengalis, not as Hindus and Muslims.

Further it is also true that a few Bengali Hindu elites subservient to political power and a few Muslim Political players having expertise in the game of fragmentation are living no stone unturned to fish in troubled water. They are being encouraged in the recently pronounced official discourse of ‘greater Assamese Nationality’ which is nothing but a paradoxical concept. The objective of such official sermon is very obvious. This aims at obliterating the uniqueness of all minority ethnic identities like the hapless Bengalis, Bodos, Karbis, Dimasas, Mishings, Rabhas etc. Recently we are witnessing rightist revivalism around the globe. Assamese chauvinism is deriving strength from that trend. The Bengali Hindus and Muslims should not ever forget that their mother-tongue is placed sixth among the languages of the world and second in India. Unfortunately the Bengali psyche has recently been vitiated in suffocating mists of amnesia. The Bengali community achieved the citadel of honour and dignity by virtue of their exceptional talent and sensibilities throughout the 20th Century. But it is a lamentable fact that while arriving in the 21st Century, the same Bengali communities have become pale penumbra of its glorious legacy because of its self-negation by being prisoners of their religious fundamentalism. In such tough moment of crisis the epitaph is being composed for the Bengalis of Assam. The heart wrenching truth has now become evident through the process of NRC updation that we do no longer have the path finders like Rabindranath, Nazrul, Deshabandhu Chittaranjan and Netaji Subhas. Neither do we have Nihar Ranjan Roy, nor Badaruddin Umar. Likewise we donot have any more Sharat Kumar Basu and Abul Hasim. The Bengali identity is never negated in beards and braided hair; but this basic fact is now being over shadowed under the illusion of whats upp and facebook. At this very moment the Bengalis are both under internal and external seize and that is why they are allowing themselves to be the easy prey of continuous brainwashing. Thus contagious sickness is further sharpened through self-deceit to the extent of almost the point of no return. In the post-partition India, internal colonialism has initiated the process of Bengali-hunting carnival in Assam. Tomorrow and beyond the very process might be initiated in Tripura, West Bengal and many other states. But nowhere there is any awareness. Even in West Bengal itself, of late, the voices of intolerance are becoming more and more intensified. That is why Assam has been taken up as the laboratory by the state power. The most important truth is not being considered by any one that all the descendants of undivided India are logically and legally Indians. Even if their parents or grandparents might have migrated from one region to another, very much under the geographical domain of undivided India for whatever reason, no one can deprive them of their Indian identity. If the Assamese hegemonism has been over zealous in obliterating the fundamental truth by making use of racial hatred and intolerance as destructive weapons, we wonder why the Indian ruling class is encouraging them relentlessly? We are also perplexed to note that the celebrated conscience of Indian elites is under paralytic stupor! For whom then is India? If the dark forces achieve success in Assam with racial hatred, animosity and intolerance, who would then listen to the much proclaimed sermons regarding national integrity?

This discourse is being prepared on 30th June, the date of judgment as it were for the Bengalis of Assam when the predetermined outcome of Bengali- hunting was scheduled to be published. For the time being the date has been extended to 8th July (however on 2nd July, the honourable supreme court has allowed an extension till 30th July). This opportunity has been seized by the champions of hate campaign against the Bengalis in Guwhati and various other places of Brahmaputra valley in the form of mad, ugly and collective frenzy. But this xenophobia is never reported in the national newspapers not to speak of the Bengali dailies of West Bengal. But we have not yet forgotten the excellent sensitive role of the famous dalies of Kolkata during the epic struggle of upholding the honour of mother tongue in 1961. It is a pity that very few of those dailies have taken their positions beside their own linguistic community when they are on the verge of annihilation through the process of NRC updation which thereby has generated great apprehension of a holocaust more intensely destructive than the partition of mother India. This is baffling that the media is even now paralysed on the spell of icy silence. On the one hand there is over whelming impact of globalization and on the other there is the position of religious fundamentalism. It seems that the talent and sensibility of the Bengalis are suspended between scylla and charybdis. Otherwise why they are taking no note of the fact that several fundamental principles of Indian constitution and preconditions of human rights are being trampled ruthlessly in Assam ? Can one imagine that in one of the provinces of the foremost democratic country of the world, the erstwhile members of the secessionist ULFA threatening in a public meeting at Guwahati that one thousand youth would invade Barak valley from Brahmaputra Valley in order to establish Assamese hegemony there? We wonder whether we are still in the medieval age? Is it then the expression of their much-proclaimed Last battle of Sharaighat? Even after such blatant instigation in open public meeting, the administration has not taken any single step against such obstinate activity. However when the hapless linguistic minorities organize peaceful meetings, they are surrounded by plenty of para-military forces! This raises the question: Is it our independent India when, because of our Bengali identity, the self-proclaimed antinationals can also easily terrorise them?

This reminds me of a well known Urdu couplet: ‘our thousand words and your only one response of not listening even once!’ That is why in the manner of Hitlars’ Germany, detention camps are prepared for the Bengalis. This administration is so inhuman that not even an old lady of 103 years, Unmati Bala, and old person of 102 years named Chandradhar and many other sickly senior persons, women and children are not spared from their cruelty. Even after such wanton disregard of human rights, the so-called champions of democracy prefer to remain silent. But this is the undeniable basic truth that in a civilized human society, all the inhabitants are sons and daughters of the soil. It is a great pity that this fundamental truth is being disregarded in Assam most nonchalantly. Now it is an open secret that many names will be omitted from the first draft NRC published on 31.12.2017 when the final draft will be published. Yes indeed. The draft NRC being prepared on the basis of partially existent documents (like the scarcely available 1951 NRC and imperfect 1966 electoral  roll) is not expected to  include the names of the non-Assamese linguistic minorities (especially the Bengalis)

Otherwise how can the cardinal truth pronounced in 194, that is, Assam is only for the Assamese, would become true?


The writer is former vice chancellor of Assam University, Silchar.


The essay was originally published in Bengali in 3 July 2018 issue of the Ajkaal daily newspaper published from Kolkata. The original version is available here.

BHRPC condemns attack on Swami Agnivesh

July 20, 2018

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is shocked and hurt by the reports of attempt of lynching on renowned human rights defender Swami Agnivesh allegedly by the Bharatya Janta Yuba Morcha at Pakur district of Jharkhand on last 17th July 2018.

BHRPC believes that the attack was done for silencing his strong voice towards justice and democracy. Swamiji, has been working for the downtrodden people peacefully for a decade.  His contribution towards emancipation of bonded labor is appreciated by the whole world.

Swami Agnivesh in a discussion of problems of tea labourers at Silchar, Assam

Swami Agnivesh in a discussion of problems of tea labourers at Silchar, Assam

BHRPC recalls that at its invitation Swamiji visited the starvation afflicted tea garden, namely Bhuvan valley tea estate in Cachar, Assam in 2014 where about 35 people died due to malnutrition and lack of basic health care. His visit and works on the issue helped the people to fight the situation and survive the crisis.

BHRPC cendemns this dastardly attack on the octogenarian human rights defender in the strongest terms and demands that the authorities should guarantee his security and well being and bring the attackers to justice at the earliest.