By Barun Das Gupta
Cyril Radcliffe, sitting in a London hotel, is said to have knifed India into two with the help of a map lying in front of him. What was the rationale behind the way he wielded his knife? None whatever. Veteran journalist, the late Kuldip Nayar, recalled Radcliffe as telling him: “I gave you Lahore. But then I realized that Pakistan would not have any large city. I had already earmarked Calcutta for India.” So he gave Lahore to Pakistan. Such an absurd rationale is shocking. But it is true.
The artificial vivisection of a country which was an organic whole resulted in an immense human tragedy that caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of human lives. One found one’s kitchen to be in Pakistan while one’s bedroom was in India. There was no end to such anomalies and absurdities. The upshot of this was the birth of two nations congenitally inimical to each other.
The final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam that was published on August 31 showed that nearly two million (19,06,657 to be precise) have been left out. This is also going to cause another huge human tragedy. A husband will find he is an Indian but his wife a Bangladeshi, or vice versa. A brother or sister will be accepted as Indian but his or her sibling a Bangladeshi. Those who fail to past the citizenship test will be forcibly wrenched away from their families and put in detention (read concentration) camps.
What happens to them and their progeny, nobody cares. This heart-rending tragedy will befall many families but the law is law and the State is a heartless machine that is not swayed by any human feelings. Many of them had lived in Assam for generations. On August 31 they found they were foreigners — either to be deported (but no country will accept them) or put in detention camps. They will have no right to anything – to education, jobs, healthcare and freedom of movement. The powers that be warn us that this exercise will be repeated in every State of the Union of India. Incidentally, it has an economic implication also. These detained people, several millions of them, will not take part in any productive work – goods or services but will have to be fed and clothed.
Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has assured these two million people who could not make it to the final list that will have the opportunity of approaching the tribunals, the High Court and the Supreme Court for inclusion of their names. He knows well how hollow this assurance is. A landless agricultural labourer who works on another person’s land just does not have the money to go to the High Court or the Supreme court. They have no wherewithal to seek legal redress. When the police comes, they will have to meekly surrender themselves to be taken away and herded into detention camps.
Even the depriving of the citizenship rights of two million people have not satisfied the “nationalists”. Assam BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass has said that even this list is not free from error as it exludes genuine citizens and includes foreigners. Pray, which authority can then prepare a fault-free list that will satisfy him and others of his ilk?
Well, something is being done. Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that the “final” NRC that was published last Saturday is not final in any sense. “This is not even the quarter final”, he says. The Centre and the State Government are “devising new methods” to drive out foreigners, for NRC has “has not met the wishes and aspirations of the people.” What “new methods” are being contemplated nobody knows.
But the objective is clear. It is immaterial whether you, a suspected Bangladeshi, have the documentary evidence to prove your Indian citizenship. The objective is to prepare an NRC which meets the “wishes and aspirations of the people.” Till these wishes and aspirations are met, the drive against foreigners will continue – NRC or no NRC. Then why this elaborate farce of drawing up an NRC which is not even worth the paper it is printed on? “Meeting the wishes and aspirations of the people” is a concept similar to one expressed by the Supreme Court in a famous case in which it held that only death sentence to the convict will “satisfy the collective conscience of the people.”
What it all boils down to is that those whose names have been included in the final NRC cannot sleep soundly. They may be driven out by “devising new methods” When the State decides to target and take away the citizenship rights of a particular segment of the population, nothing avails them. For the present, the Bengali-speaking people of Assam, whether Hindu or Muslim, who have escaped from being declared as foreigners by getting their names in the NRC can be dubbed infiltrators any time in future and put in detention camps. A human tragedy of colossal proportions, the second such after the partition of India. (IPA Service)