Backlash against migration that started after the formation of Bangladesh in the 1970s threatens to exclude nearly 40 lakh people in Assam from citizenship.
More than 10 percent of Assam’s population has not been included in the draft National Register of Citizens. While the state and central governments have said that it’s only a draft and those left out can appeal, Monirul Hussain, chair professor of north east studies at the Jamia Milia Islamia University, called it a highly defective process.
Narrating his own experience, Hussain said he taught at Gauhati University for four decades, his father worked for the government and his grandfather was a freedom fighter, but he was still summoned again and again to prove his citizenship. A scientific study on how much migration took place from Bangladesh after the formation of the country is needed, he said.
"I am not saying that there has been no migration. There might have been some migration, but this is highly exaggerated since 1980 and there is now a witch hunt." - Monirul Hussain, Chair, North East Studies, Jamia Milia Islamia University
The process to finalise a list of genuine Indian citizens living in Assam was pushed by the previous Congress government. And it’s being carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, 31 July, the top court said the draft register can’t be the basis for a “coercive action”. What happens once the final list of citizens is out is still unclear.
“Are we talking about the biggest large-scale displacement of people since 1970?” asked Alok Prasanna Kumar, senior fellow at Vidhi Center for Legal Policy. Though the process of finalising the list of genuine citizens of Assam is being supervised by the apex court, a decision on what to do with those left out needs to be a political one, he said.
The 2011 Census pegged the population of Assam at 3.12 crore. Potentially declaring over 10 percent of this population as illegal immigrants would cause “chaos”, he warned.
"You are talking about turning the state of Assam upside down and the kind of chaos that can follow. It calls for a mature political deliberation." - Alok Prasanna Kumar, Senior Fellow, Vidhi Center for Legal Policy
(This article was first published on BloombergQuint and has been republished with permission.)
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