Posts Tagged ‘Assam’

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)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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 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.

Assam: Abuse, threats, intimidation and false case against human rights defender, scholar and writer Prof. Tapodhir Bhattacharjee

July 9, 2018

Assam human rights defender and renowned literary theorist and litterateur of South Asia Mr. Tapodhir Bhattacharjee has been abused, threatened and booked for an article written by him exposing the discriminatory and arbitrary procedure of updating of National Register of Citizens (NRC).

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Prof. Tapodhir Bhattacharya

Please sign the petition HERE

Following the publication of an article in by Professor Tapodhir Bhattacharjee, on Tuesday 3rd July, 2018 in the “Aajkaal“, a leading Bengali daily news-paper published from Kolkata, West Bengal, titled “Assam e Bangalir Shoroshojja” meaning “Bengalis on a bed of thorns in Assam” pointing out the racist and anti-people aspects of ongoing updation process of National Register of Citizens in Assam, at first, a section of electronic as well as print media based in Guwahati including the Pratadin Times, News 18 Assam etc. and “Edinor Sangbad”, “Axomiya Pratidin” among the print media branded him as a conspirator against the Assamese community. Then on 8 July a complaint was filed for registering a false criminal case against him in Dispur Police Station purportedly under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharjee is a renowned and award winning literary theorist and critic and exponent of the contemporary theory and comparative aesthetics. Along with it, he is an essayist, poet, story-writer and the editor of a widely circulated little magazine “Dwiralaap”. He is a dedicated Human Rights Defender and at present works as the President of the Citizens Rights Protection Co-ordination Committee(CRPCC). This organization has been working against arbitrary deprivation of citizenship rights of the citizens and against continuous enforced statelessness of people of Assam for a long time. He is also an honorary member of Barak Upottoka Bongo Shahitto O Sanskriti Sammelan (Barak Valley Bengali Literary and Cultural Association), a prestigious body of litterateurs and intellectuals of South Assam. He is also the former Vice-Chancellor of the Assam University, Silchar and Tagore Professor of Delhi University. His father late Mr. Tarapada Bhattacharya was a freedom fighter and a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly from Katigorah Constituency, Cachar. Both of his parents were teachers. His wife Mrs. Swapna Bhattacharya is also a renowned and award-winning story-writer. Defaming and intimidating a person of such a stature and popularity is designed to stop him from his constant work mainly through writing and raising awareness for protection of basic human rights of linguistic and ethnic minorities of Assam as well as other human rights defenders working on the issue of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship rights of people in Assam.

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed governments both at centre in 2014 and in Assam state in 2016, one hundred more Foreigners Tribunals were set up and a large number of people including the indigenous people of Assam were served notices by these Tribunals and in many cases notices are not properly served and decisions are taken ex -parte declaring the person referred to in the case as a foreign national under a procedure that puts burden of proof on the suspect. After such decision, people are kept in detention centres indefinitely. Moreover, since the updation of National Register Citizens for Assam is going on in the state under a questionable procedure, a sense of helplessness and desperation have developed among the vulnerable groups of people to such an extent that at least ten people, including a man from indigenous Boro community and rest from people of Bengali origin, have committed suicide. More recently through a letter dated 11 June 2018 addressed to the Minister of External Affairs, Government of India, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on minority issues, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary from of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief have expressed their concerns and asked for a report from the Government of India on the issue of discrimination faced by people of Bengali origin. In such a scenario the term “bed of thorns”, which is a metaphor taken from the Indian epic Mahabharata, appears to have been used in the post-editorial essay to denote this extremely stressful and uncertain situation prevailing in Assam as an outcome of discriminatory, arbitrary and irrational procedure adopted by the NRC authorities.

The complaint filed in Dispur Police Station is has invoked section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 153A provides punishment for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony and is non-bailable. The opinion piece penned by Mr. Bhattacharya does not by any stretch of imagination falls under any penal provisions of law, let alone section 153A, IPC. He critiqued the state policies and actions that are resulting in arbitrary deprivation of citizenship of a large number of citizens of India including people of indigenous communities through a procedure already questioned by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs. There is not a single word in his entire essay that is calculated to promote enmity between communities. Rather the write-up seeks to promote harmony between communities through promotion and protection of equal rights of people of all communities living in Assam. The speech in the article is well within the protection of Article 19 of the Constitution of India as well as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. And it does not fall under any of the eight items enumerated under Article 19(2).

His works as the president of CRPCC and member of other civil society organizations as well as in his individual capacity fall within the meaning of human rights works as contemplated under the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as such he is also protected under the declaration as a human rights defender.

In this background it appears that the defamation, threats and the false complaint against Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharya is an effort to create an environment of fear among the human rights defenders and progressive community workers. It is to be mentioned that earlier also in the 1970s and 80s, hundreds of community workers were killed in Assam after branding them as “Badan” meaning “conspirator and traitors”.

Therefore, Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharajee is at risk of getting physically assaulted and even killed by the extremists. He is also likely to be harassed by the police in connection with the complaint against him. There are also concerns about safety and physical and mental well being of his family and friends and other human rights defenders working in Assam, particularly on the issue of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship.

 

Please sign the petition HERE

 (For more information,  Taniya Laskar may be contacted at bhrpc.ne@gmail.com.)

UN Special Rapporteurs express concerns over discriminatory procedure of NRC updation in Assam

June 22, 2018

Worried About Fate of Bengali Muslims, UN Special Rapporteurs Write to Govt. of India

The Wire Staff

June 21, 7:00 pm

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)

New Delhi: Four special rapporteurs of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHCR) have jointly written to Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj expressing “serious concern” over the discrimination of “members of Bengali Muslim minority in Assam” in getting “access to and enjoyment of citizenship status on the basis of their ethnic and religious minority status”.

The letter, written on June 11 by special rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of right to freedom of opinion and expression Daid Kaye and special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed, from the OHCHR’s Geneva headquarters, has categorically linked their concern to the ongoing process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 in the state.

The update is being carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court, to honour the Assam Accord signed between the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Central government in 1985 to “detect, delete and deport” all “foreigners” who entered the state, mostly from neighbouring Bangladesh, after March 25, 1971. The NRC authorities are mandated to ready the final draft of the updated citizenship register by June 30.

The letter has also sought a response from the Indian government “within 60 days” on eight different allegations of wrongdoing brought to their notice with regard to the NRC update, stating that it “will be made available in a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council for its consideration”.

When asked about the letter, sources in the MEA told The Wire, “Such letters on different issues are received all the time. Reply is sent based on inputs received from relevant ministries”.

The letter said:

“There is no official policy outlining the implications for those who will be excluded from the final NRC. It is reported that they will be treated as foreigners and that their citizenship rights may be revoked in the absence of a prior trial. They may subsequently be asked to prove their citizenship before so-called Foreigners’ Tribunals. In December 2017, a local government minister in Assam was quoted as stating that ‘the NRC is being done to identify illegal Bangladeshis residing in Assam’ and that ‘all those whose names do not figure in the NRC will have to be deported.’

In this context, the NRC update has generated increased anxiety and concerns among the Bengali Muslim minority in Assam, who have long been discriminated against due to their perceived status as foreigners, despite possessing the necessary documents to prove their citizenship. While it is acknowledged that the updating process is generally committed to retaining Indian citizens on the NRC, concerns have been raised that local authorities in Assam, which 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 NRC.”

The special rapporteurs particularly highlighted the May 2, 2017 judgment of the Gauhati high court which directed the Assam Border Police to open inquiries concerning relatives of those persons declared foreigners by the Tribunals. Calling it an “alleged misinterpretation” of the judgment by state coordinator of the NRC Prateek Hajela, leading him to refer two such cases (on May 2 and May 25, 2018) to the Border Police, they stated that the duty to conduct a prior inquiry before keeping such names out of the draft NRC has not been mentioned in the order.

“Once relevant NRC authorities have been informed about the referral of a case, the concerned family member will automatically be excluded from the NRC. Their status will be recorded as ‘pending’ until their citizenship has been determined by a Foreigners’ Tribunal. It is, therefore, alleged that these orders may lead to the wrongful exclusion of close to two million names from the NRC, without a prior investigation and trial. In addition, it is alleged that the orders contravene a High Court judgment of 3 January 2013 (State of Assam vs. Moslem Mondal and Others), which stipulates that automatic referrals to Foreigners’ Tribunals are not permissible as a fair and proper investigation is required prior to the referral of a case.”

The special rapporteurs have underlined that the “orders may also contravene section 3 (1) (a) of the Citizenship Act 1955, which grants citizenship at birth to anyone born in India on/after 26 January 1950, but prior to 1 July 1987.” Besides seeking clarifications and/or additional information on these allegations from the Indian government, they also sought to know the “steps taken to ensure that the NRC update does not result in statelessness or human rights violations, including arbitrary deprivation of citizenship, mass expulsions, and arbitrary detention” of Bengali Muslims.

Among seeking other information, the letter asked for data from the government on the ethnicity and religion of those individuals who would find themselves excluded from the draft NRC as well as those declared foreigners by the Tribunals, besides an official word on whether they would face detention or deportation.

The UN rapporteurs also sought “the present status” of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and asked why it doesn’t include Bengali Muslims.

“The proposed amendment suggests a broader context of vulnerability of Bengali Muslims to unlawful exclusion from Indian citizenship. While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we would like to express serious concern that members of the Bengali Muslim minority in Assam have experienced discrimination in access to and enjoyment of citizenship status on the basis of their ethnic and religious minority status. We are particularly concerned that this discrimination is predicted to escalate as a result of the NRC.”

The majority population in Assam has expressed their opposition to the Bill as it will divide the undocumented immigrants allegedly residing in the state on religious grounds. In the last few months, the streets have witnessed vociferous public protests demanding the withdrawal of the Bill as it violates the Assam Accord. As per the Accord, whoever has crossed over the international border into the state without valid documents after March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner without considering their religious affiliations. The state would thereafter make provisions for deportation to their country of origin. The Accord brought to an end a six-year-long anti-foreigner movement in the state, but its core clause of “detection, detention and deportation” has not been implemented yet. As per a tripartite agreement reached by the state and Central governments with AASU in 2005, the Registrar General of India, under the supervision of the apex court, is conducting the ongoing update of the NRC only for Assam.

The letter can also be accessed here.

This story was first published in the wire.in and has been reproduced here verbatim.

 

BHRPC representation to JPC on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

May 10, 2018

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) submitted its views and suggestions on the proposed bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on 9 May 2018 at camp at National Institute of Technology, Silchar in Cachar, Assam. The representation supporting the object sought to be achieved by the bill argued that the language employed defeats that very object and renders the bill violative of the constitution of India as well as international human rights laws as expressed through different United Nations negotiated multinational treaties.

The text of the representation:

To

The Hon’ble Chairperson Sri Rajendra Agrawal and his companion Hon’ble members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955

At Camp at NIT, Silchar

Cachar, Assam

Subject: Recommendations for amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955 vis-à-vis the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Hon’ble sir,

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) expresses heartfelt gratitude for your visit to Silchar and particularly for holding this consultation with the people of Barak valley who are facing threats to their citizenship

BHRPC is a human rights group that endeavours to generate awareness of human rights among  all  stakeholders,  monitors  and  documents  cases  of  violations including cases of decitizenisation. Geographically  its  works  mainly  focus on  the  southern  part of  the  state  of  Assam  comprised of the districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. However, this self-funded voluntary group of human rights defenders also does its best to address cases of violation happening elsewhere in the state.

BHRPC presents its views and recommendations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on behalf of the people of Assam from the human rights point of view as follows:

  1. The statement of objects and reasons attached to the abovementioned bill states that “under the  existing  provisions  of  the  Act,  persons  belonging  to  the  minority communities, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have either entered into India without valid travel documents or the validity of their documents have expired are regarded as illegal migrants and hence ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship. It is proposed to make them eligible for applying for Indian citizenship.” Though it is not stated expressly in the bill, the underlying reason for making the abovementioned persons eligible for Indian citizenship is understood to be their victimization in sectarian violence in their countries.

  1. Of course, it is a humanitarian response to the suffering, the members of vulnerable groups of people in India’s neighbouring countries are made subject to, worthy of the largest democracy in the world. It is informed by Indian constitutional ideals of humanitarianism and respect to human rights as well as India’s legal and moral obligations under the international humanitarian and human rights laws.

  1. The modern international law relating to the issue at hand is based on Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 that reads, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This has been elaborated in several international conventions including the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and its 1967 Protocol[1].

  1. The international laws relating to the issue also find place in the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 1954 and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 1961.

  1. The honoured principle of non-refoulement is also reiterated in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment[2].

  1. BHRPC is aware that India is not a party to the international conventions mentioned above. However, these are the documents containing laws of the civilized nations regarding the issue under consideration[3]. India, therefore, should ratify these conventions and frame a uniform immigration policy in conformity with the norms promulgated there.

  1. Coming to the bill under consideration, the clause 2 fails to live up to the principle of international law and also runs afoul to the cardinal constitutional principle of secularism that forms the basic structure[4] and principle of equality of treatment as enshrined in Article 14 by naming certain religious demonination while excluding others by implication. The bill also does not mention that the persons to be made eligible for citizenship should come in India owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion as provided in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 as amended its 1967 Protocol. In fact, the bill does not provide any basis for according them citizenship other than their being member of the named religious groups, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Thus it excludes other minorities who are often persecuted in the neighbouring countries such as Shias, Ahmadias, Atheists, Sexual minorities, political dissenters etc. and Muslims in Myanmar[5]. The classification has no reasonable basis and there is no nexus between the object sought to be achieved and the legislation. Therefore, the bill is in its present form unconstitutional as it is hit by Article 14[6].

  1. The wording of the clause goes against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965 to which India is a State Party. Article 1 of the Convention defines the term “racial discrimination” to mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. The bill excludes people who otherwise should be included on the basis of religious and ethnic identity.

  1. To save the bill from unconstitutionality and to bring it in line with India’s obligation under international human rights law, the clause should provide that any person who comes to India from any neighbouring country for being victimized in sectarian violence or for fear of such victimization irrespective of their religions shall not be treated as illegal migrants.

  1. The immediate trigger for presenting the bill came, it is understood, from fear of decitizenisation of people belonging to linguistic minorities, though the bill does not address this issue directly. This needs to be addressed to prevent gross violation of human rights of a large section of people belonging to a number of ethnic/linguistic groups including Bengalis and Nepalis. The threat comes from the arbitrary procedure of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

  1. The NRC rules[7] provides that only the name of person whose name appear in any of the electoral rolls prior to the year 1971, or in National Register of Citizens, 1951 and descendants of the persons mentioned above should be entered in the updated NRC.

  1. This rule is in breach of sub-section 7 of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.[8]

  1. According to the Representation of Peoples Act[9], 1950 as interpreted by the Supreme Court[10] those whose names are there in a final electoral roll must be presumed to be entered after due scrutiny giving rise to a presumption of their citizenship.

  1. The NRC updation rules referred to above is also in breach of this law as laid down by the apex court of the land.

  1. Moreover, the said illegal procedure certainly falls under the rubric of arbitrary procedure within the meaning of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

  1. The basis of modern international law regarding right to a nationality is enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 that provides that everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

  1. It is, therefore, necessary to add a subsection to section 6A clearly providing that the person whose names appear in any electoral roll as voters shall be presumed to be citizen of India.

  1. BHRPC, therefore, recommends to the JPC that the bill should be re-written in the following terms:

  1. In subsection (1) of section 2 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), the following proviso shall be inserted after clause (b), namely:

“Provided that persons who migrated to India from the neighbouring countries, namely, Afganistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Srilanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar for being victimized in sectarian violence or for fear of such victimization irrespective of their religions shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act.”

  1. In the Act, in section 6A, after sub-section 7 the following subsection shall be inserted, namely:

“7A:  The person whose name appears in any electoral roll as voters shall be presumed to be citizen of India.”

  1. In clause 3 in the Third Schedule of the Act, the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:

“Provided that for the persons mentioned in proviso to clause (b) of subsection (1) of section 2, the aggregate period of residence or service of a Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as “not less than six months” in place of “not less than eleven years”.”

Clause 3 of the bill may be retained verbatim.

  1. BHRPC further recommends that:

  • India should ratify the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1952 and its protocol, namely, Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967.

  • India should ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, 1954 and the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 1961.

  • India should ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984
  • India should formulate a uniform immigration policy in line with the above international treaties.

  • India should take proper actions in appropriate international forums on cases of atrocities on minorities and vulnerable groups and gross violations of their human rights happening in neighbouring countries.

 

Looking forward to a report from your end that incorporates the above recommendations leading to a non-discriminatory law according citizenship of persons migrated to India from neighbouring countries owing to persecution for their identity or belief or views, or for fear of such persecution and protecting citizenship of genuine Indian citizens.

 

With warm regards

Taniya Sultana Laskar

Secretary General,

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee

Silchar, Assam


[1]  Article 1 of the Convention, as amended by the 1967 Protocol, defines a refugee as this:  “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”

[2] Article 3 of the Convention provides that no State shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

[3] India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

[4]  Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461 and S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 1918 and several other judgments of the Supreme Court.

[5] Whereas the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is described by the United Nations as facing the risk of ethnic cleansing, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/05/more-than-120000-rohingya-flee-myanmar-violence-un-says

[6] State of Madras v. V. G. Row 1952 AIR 196

[7] Sub-clause (a) and (b) of clause 2 of the Schedule framed under Rule 4A (4) of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of Identity Cards) Rule 2003 titled Special Provisions as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Citizens in the State of Assam.

[8] Sub-section 7 of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 provides that who were citizens of India before 1985 are exempted from the operation of section 6A that enacts the rule about 1966 and 1971.

[9] Section 16 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 provides for disqualification for registration in an electoral roll and it it includes not being a citizen of India meaning that those whose names are there in a final electoral roll are found to be citizens after due scrutiny as prescribed by law.

[10] Lal Babu Hussein & Others v. Electrol Registration Officer  and Others 1995 AIR 1189

Assam: How the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has become the source of distress and even suicide for some people

April 30, 2018

CJP Urgent Appeal: Stop Move to Make Assamese Muslims Homeless & Stateless Sign our Petition NOW!

April 26, 2018

(BHRPC forwards this Citizens for Justice and Peace petition to protect bonafide Indian citizens from enforced statelessness)

A humanitarian crisis is underway in Assam as you read this. The National Register for Citizens (NRC), a record of ‘legitimate’ Indian citizens living in Assam, is being updated for the first time since 1951. The ostensible objective is to weed out ‘Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’. However, the numbers tell a chilling story… one of a conspiracy of ‘othering’ and exclusion.

NRC Appeal

Representational image by CJP

3.29 crore people from 68.27 lakh families in Assam have submitted over 6.5 crore documents with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to prove their Indian citizenship. But the NRC recently published a list of only 1.9 crores as legal citizens.

A huge number of 1.39 crore Assamese, almost all Muslim, are under threat of having their legitimate citizenship revoked. CJP believes this is discriminatory. Join us and raise your voice against this injustice. Sign our Petition NOW!

  • We demand an immediate halt to this anti-constitutional and potentially polarizing move.
  • We demand an end to this attempt to brand all Muslims as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
  • We demand that corrupt local officials are NOT empowered with coercive powers to unilaterally decide fates of entire families.
  • We demand a stop to dividing Assam for narrow political gains.

Raise your voice against this now. Sign our petition.

The appeal was published on CJP website and reproduced here for wider dissemination.

Assam: NRC process creates racial and political categories of suspect and isolates them for penal retribution

March 27, 2018
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)

An unintended consequence of the process of NRC updation in terms of racial othering and profiling led to severe social conditions. Suicide of Hanif Khan and Bijit Sen, two cases that point to helplessness of ordinary citizens before this procedure of NRC updation in which right to legal redress is taken away by creating a stressful victimology. Hanif Khan, as revealed by his wife believed that he would be beaten up black and blue by state forces, as he thought that his name would not figure in updated NRC. If this is the perception created among linguistic and religious minorities by a process which is supposed to uphold constitutional values, the task of a democratic state has to be much more sensitive. Bijit Sen’s helplessness and anomie combined with his lack of income to create mortal fear, which cannot be downplayed as a mere psychotic response of the victim. Indeed victim’s testimony tell us volumes about the kind of agony and anxiety created by the uncertainty involved in this scrutiny and determination of citizenship in Assam.

By Prasenjit Biswas*

Although the updation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is based on directives of a two member bench of the Supreme Court, yet method deployed for verification by authorities are quite novel and unheard of. Does anyone in rest of the country know about “legacy data” and “family tree”? Indeed Assam specific provisions made in The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of Identity cards) Rule, 2003 under rule 4A that creates unheard of categories like ‘original inhabitant’(under clause 3.3) and ‘parental linkage’ (under clause 4.4) to verify the antecedents of an applicant for inclusion in the updation process. The entire burden of proof is shifted to the applicant in case of any doubt, while an administrative memo issued by home ministry of government of India (GoI) in 2015 asked for confiscation of various documents collected through valid means from such suspected category of individual and people. Although GoI instructions are meant for entire India, yet in case of Assam, it has negative ramifications and causes harassment for the so called suspects. Can suspicion be the basis of jurisprudence and on that basis the status of an innocent be altered as suspected guilty?

One may be curious to know the ideas behind ‘legacy data’ and ‘family tree’. Legacy data was published by NRC authority of Assam giving a code number to all the names available in 1951 census document as well as in electoral rolls upto 1971. The applicant has to refer to such names to establish their antecedent. The matter is more complex than what it reads here. Much of electoral rolls since 1952 are not available, as Assam prior to 1971 included United Khasi and Jaintia Hills (now Meghalaya), Naga Hills, Mizo hills and those electoral rolls are never found. Indeed 1951 census was so incomplete that many districts and many of the places do not have any mention therein. Many places mentioned in 1951 census do not exist anymore because of unstable geology and natural calamities. As far as ‘family tree’ is concerned, the NRC authorities have deployed such a concept to weed out fake legacy claims in cases where familywise unrelated people referred to legacy of the same ancestors. The procedure assumes that the validity of an individual’s claim to citizenship lies in genuineness of his/her belonging to a same line of descent from a common ancestor. But the problem is that families get dispersed, members of same family get separated and live separately in different contexts and hence all of them shall have to be forced to accept each other as members of the same family. Separated, estranged, divorced and distantiated in time and space members of once upon a time family are now sent legal notices to testify each other’s claim of common belonging, all because of shared legacy data of common ancestors. If Citizenship Act, 1955 would have stated such a procedure, it could have been deployed in the whole country and then probably Assam specific application of such an invented procedure could have had a reasonable legitimacy.

This takes us back to a little bit of history of independent India’s extremely ingenuous story of adult franchise and preparation of electoral rolls. Ornit Sahni’s (Faculty at University of Haifa, Israel) fascinating book entitled, “how india became democratic: citizenship and making of the universal franchise”(2018) recorded with due diligence that transition to adult franchise had an Assam specific obstacle in registration of partition refugees leading to historic declaration by BN Rau, advisor to Constituent Assembly of India that all refugees have to be registered on mere intent of staying at a place and their names be included in the electoral roll of the place. Against this, many civil society bodies of Assam wrote to Constituent Assembly asking for exclusion of those people who are not born in Assam causing concern among victims of partition from being excluded from citizenship of India. Needless to say that such contestation did not arise in case of refugees from West Pakistan in due process of registration and enfranchisement! This bit of history tells us that the newly independent state of India was sensitive enough to recognize humanitarian concerns post partition of India and the same continued through Indira-Mujib agreement, Assam Accord and the latest GoI order granting residency to displaced refugees in India who came from neighbouring countries due to religious persecution and other forms of civil and political disturbances. Only little difficulty was that the latest GoI ordinance excluded persecuted Muslims, by going against the spirit of secularism and nondiscrimination on the basis of religion or any other such social categories. What happened to many Non-Muslim detainees who are languishing in various detention camps, post-2015 is a matter of grave concern as the GoI ordinance is violated with contempt in many fresh cases of those who are pushed to the detention camps. The size and number of detainees in such detention camps are on the rise, while many are able to prove themselves to be genuine Indian citizens despite initial arbitrary proceedings against them.

In such a context of uncertainty, certain organizations led by ex-insurgents demanded that land rights be limited to indigenous communities excluding tea tribes, who have been there in Assam prior to 1826 Yandabu pact with the Governor of Burma. Certain other organizations are asking for dividing Assam and creation of Union Territory. The atmosphere is dominated by legal procedures of an uncertain kind and suspicion between communities asserting their homeland claims. In Bodoland autonomous areas, there is already a ban imposed on owning land on non-Bodos and the picture is getting murkier as large number of people are waiting to be stateless, disenfranchised and deprived of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Indian Constitution.

The constitutional right to citizenship, which is subject to fulfillment of specific conditions allows an escape route for those who are noncitizens. They are guaranteed right to life, which includes right to livelihood with only a restriction on participation in electoral process but gives an expansive definition of personhood based on human dignity and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment are given a go by in such a situation. Recent circulars from ministry of home to states of the union asking for restrictions on movement of those who are declared foreigners and those who are suspected makes for a police controlled regime of rights.

Added to this, a process of deportation by force across the border in no man’s zone or restriction of fundamental rights of freedom of movement to residents of an enclave by security forces is a larger ramification of a ‘state of exception’ in the making. As if along with checkpoints, there are racial and political categories of suspect and a process of isolating them for penal retribution by wielding new forms of administrative powers. Does this gel with a vision of equality before law and equal citizenship, as the matter is not just a matter of a particular state but for the whole of India?

The unintended consequence of this process of NRC updation in terms of racial othering and profiling led to severe social conditions. Suicide of Hanif Khan and Bijit Sen, two cases that point to helplessness of ordinary citizens before this procedure of NRC updation in which right to legal redress is taken away by creating a stressful victimology. Hanif Khan, as revealed by his wife believed that he would be beaten up black and blue by state forces, as he thought that his name will not figure in updated NRC. If this is the perception created among linguistic and religious minorities by a process which is supposed to uphold constitutional values, the task of a democratic state has to be much more sensitive. Bijit Sen’s helplessness and anomie combined with his lack of income to create mortal fear, which cannot be downplayed as a mere psychotic response of the victim. Indeed victim’s testimony tell us volumes about the kind of agony and anxiety created by the uncertainty involved in this scrutiny and determination of citizenship in Assam.

Hanif Khan

Hanif Khan (Photo: The Guardian)

The diversity of India’s citizens in terms of multicultural and multireligious background of peoples, which still creates confusing identities cannot be legally reduced to legacy data and family tree, as the basic spirit of inclusion accepted by constituent assembly in terms of those who are born in undivided India and their descendents has to be upheld in all cases.

*Prasenjit Biswas is a human rights defender and a professional philosopher based in Shillong.

An edited version of the article was first published in the Statesman on 26 March 2018.