The Fairness of Implementing a Citizen Registrar in Assam
In the past year, India has stripped millions of people of their citizenship. Specifically in Assam, Prime Minister Narandra Modi has implemented a citizenship register requiring people to prove their citizenship in the state dating back prior to March 1971. This alone could leave approximately two million people stateless.
There is no clear indication of what criteria must be fulfilled in order to determine citizenship. Anis Ahmed, publisher of the Dhaka Tribune, argues, “[an] overwhelming majority… excluded from the registry are thought to be Muslim,” and that, “the effort looks far more like an ethinic purge than anything like a census.”
Amit Shah, India’s home minister, says that India must act against "infiltrators who were eating the country like termites." However, Colin Gonsalves, a senior lawyer and founder of the Human Rights Law Network, argues how “arbitrary” this system is. He says, “Can you imagine working class people like rickshaw pullers keeping documents dating back 50 years? It’s an incredibly unfair and slanted process where the poor find themselves at the wrong end.”
However, this then begs the question, where will these displaced people go if their homeland is no longer an option? Bangladesh, a neighboring country, will not accept them, since there is no evidence that they are anything other than “Indians.”
Recently, India has moved to build a mass detention center to house illegal immigrants. Those who cannot prove their citizenship will be relocated to the center. Shah justifies this move by saying, "Our intention is to expel illegal immigrants from the entire country and not just Assam."
However, Suhas Chakma, of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, says, “The government should wait for the NRC process to be completely over before going ahead with the detention center.”
Amnesty International argues that these detention centers, “would not only lead to a loss of nationality and liberty of a large group of people but also erosion of their basic rights—severely affecting the lives of generations to come.”
The development of these mass detention centers had Imraan Siddiqi, executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Arizona, tweeting, “If this isn't a red flag for the whole world, I don't know what is.”
As a result, the tensions within the country are mounting. Some argue that Prime Minister Modi is becoming more extreme with these measures, while others argue that these measures are necessary for the safety of the country. Whatever it may be, the lives of millions are on the line and the government must respond accordingly.