The Citizenship Crisis in Assam: Questions of D-Voter, NRC and proposed amendment to Citizenship Act: VIDEOS

Shockingly, 11 family members of the late Muhammad Amiruddin, who was the Assam Legislative Assembly’s first deputy speaker, have been referred by the border police to a Foreigners’ Tribunal as D-voters

Image: Hindustan Times

The misuse of certain statistical ‘facts’ to stigmatise the already marginalised community of the  East Bengali origin in Assam today has become a matter of concern for all democratic Indians in Assam and elsewhere. The higher decadal growth rate of this community has been interpreted as a direct consequence of the bogey of ‘illegal infiltration’ from Bangladesh. A section of the media and a number of organisations are bent upon branding all of them with the much-abused label of "illegal infiltrators" from Bangladesh.  While poverty, illiteracy and lack of infrastructure continue to plague these people who face institutionalised as informal discrimination from the government as well as the entrenched classes. On April 3, 2017 a meeting in Delhi focused on this sticklish issue. It was organised by the Justice Forum – Assam, Delhi Action Committee for Assam.
Sabrangindia and Newsclick, in collaboration, bring you this Video Story from the speeches captured at the meeting. Among the prominent guests and speakers at this meeting were
Kuldeep Nayar, Veteran Journalist and Political Commentator, Sanjay Parikh, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court, Prof. Sanjay Hazarika, formerly Jamia Milia Islamia, Prof. Monirul Hussain from the Gauhati University, Prof. Dilip Bora, from the Gauhati University and Prof. Abdul Mannan, formerly from the Gauhati University.

The deep-seated antagonism towards these people has spread and taken over every organ of the state administrative machinery including the legislature. Evidently, there is an increasing trend to arbitrarily refer people from these marginalised communities as D-voters (doubtful voters) to Foreigners Tribunal. In a very recent example, 11 family members of the late Muhammad Amiruddin, who was the Assam Legislative Assembly’s first deputy speaker, have been referred by the border police to a Foreigners’ Tribunal as D-voters.

The central executive has stepped up the ‘popular’ resentment against these vulnerable groups, recently, through a proposed Act of Parliament that will amend the provisions of the Citizenship Act of 1955 to discriminate between ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh on the basis of religion, and grant citizenship to Hindus who have migrated to Assam from Bangladesh. Through a painfully slow process, various stakeholders and communities in Assam had come to a consensus to uphold the historic Assam Accord of 1985 and in the light of the Accord treat March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date to solve the question of "illegal immigration" from Bangladesh; anyone who entered Assam after midnight of March 24, 1971 would be considered a foreigner. It was also in this context that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was being updated in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court. However, through the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act the present ruling dispensation is trying to break the consensus built around the Assam Accord and render the updation of NRC meaningless.

The formation of a ‘popular’ consensus against these marginalised groups especially at the behest of the state government has forced the community to a state of utter vulnerability. Forces that advocate an extreme form of nationalism today in Assam have exploited the unenviable situation of these people and they have every chance of further advancing their communal agenda by building on a certain historical construction of the community as ‘outsiders.’

The public meeting was conceived as an intervention in this communally-charged political era that condemns the Assamese Muslims of East Bengali origin to a degraded form of existence and an endless cycle of prejudice and hostility. We aim to reach out to left and democratic circles in the country and initiate a dialogue among concerned groups on how to challenge the various forms of discrimination that these people face today. Our appeal is to invite like-minded organisations and individuals to understand the historical and contemporary condition of a people who has faced assaults on their basic rights for many decades in the state.



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