Assam has been in turmoil for some time. In recent months the intensity of it has deepened. Lives are being lost through killings and suicides. There has been a two-pronged attack on the people of the state. The first is through the NRC (National Register of Citizens). In a judgement in 2014 the Supreme Court ordered preparation of the NRC in Assam. Since then the residents of the state have been made to produce pre-1971 documents to prove that they are legitimate citizens. The final draft list of the NRC, released on 30th July 2018, excluded 40 lakhs people. The excluded face an uncertain future, possible statelessness. The politics of cultural, ethnic chauvinism is gaining ground in the atmosphere of proving one’s legitimacy. Questions of life, livelihood, exploitation of labour, of natural resources are being thrown aside.
The second assault on the people is the CAB or the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill was introduced by the Central Government led by the BJP. The bill treats Muslims immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afganistan differently from non-Muslim immigrants. The latter are provided asylum while the former are treated as infiltrators. It thus violates the principle of equality of faith enshrined in the Constitution. A popular reaction in Assam against CAB has taken an anti-Bengali edge. Paranoid rhetoric is being spread that Hindu Bangladeshis would swamp the state if the CAB is passed. The Hindutvavadi forces have been busy shaping India in the image of Hindu Rashtra. The CAB is an instrument in this project. These dangerous games are giving rise of conflict and violence.
The killing of 5 Bengali working class men in Tinsukia by unknown gunmen, the spate of suicides by helpless people as they face a future of statelessness, detention of more than 1000 poor people in 6 detention camps which violate every norm of humanity: these are some of the pointers of the incendiary situation developing in the state. As if, Hindutva politics of the Sangh Parivar and nativist politics of chauvinistic groups have conspired to create this situation. A collection of commentary pieces is presented here on this fast developing humanitarian tragedy. Some of these article have appeared on Sanhati-India. Some appeared elsewhere and are listed here. We intend to prepare a collection of readings on the NRC, Citizenship Amendment Bill, D-voters, the Foreigners’ Tribunal, etc. It is hoped that the reader would gain a comprehensive idea of the project which is going on to forge a “correct” citizenry, in a land fraught with majoritarian violence and ethnic conflicts.
- . “Updation of the NRC in Assam: what are the issues involved and what lies ahead?” 16 January, 2018. Debarshi Das comments on the evidence of migration and infiltration in Assam, and the politics behind the NRC. This was in response to the release of the first draft list of the NRC.
- ‘ “Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a tool of polarisation, but the issue of citizenship is important” 20 May, 2018. Debarshi Das on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill introduced by the BJP, its relation with the NRC and the rifts this cynical tactic is giving rise to.
- . “The Unending Conundrum: The Story of Citizens/Foreigners between Politics and the Law in Assam” 31 May, 2018. Binayak Dutta on the politics over immigration in Assam since independence and the NRC.
- . “The dark side of humanity and legality: A glimpse inside Assam’s detention centres for ‘foreigners’” 25 June, 2018. Harsh Mander, as a special monitor for the National Human Rights Commission visited and reported on the sordid condition of foreigners’ detention camps in Assam. His report was subsequently ignored and Mander resigned in protest. Here is an account of what he saw.
- . “How Assam’s Supreme Court-mandated NRC project is targeting and detaining Bengali Muslims, breaking families” 2 July, 2018. Praveen Donthi on the chauvinist politics which lies behind the recurring violence in Assam and how the minority community people are getting discriminated by NRC updation.
- . “The silence of the media: National Register Of Citizens in Assam” 2 July, 2018. Suraj Gogoi and Parag Jyoti Saikia on the complicity of the media in Assam, how the media hide the NRC suicides and trauma — all in the name of protecting Assamese nation.
- . “Why has there been so little uproar in Assam?” 30 July, 2018. Debarshi Das on the silence, and complicity of the left progressive sections with nativist politics on the question of the NRC.
- . “How NRC legitimised xenophobia and chauvinism in Assam” 2 August, 2018. Suraj Gogoi and Parag Jyoti Saikia on the unfairness of the NRC process, how the border police, the NRC and Foreigners’ Tribunals work hand in hand.
- . “The logic of NRC, and what next?” 3 August, 2018. Debarshi Das’s commentary after the release of the final draft list of the NRC. What are the anomalies and irrationalities involved, which lies are being spread, why the BJP is taking interest.
- . “EVERYDAY LIFE OF ASSAM’S FOREIGNERS’ TRIBUNALS” 3 August, 2018. Sauradeep Dey describes the horrific day to day experiences in Foreigners’ Tribunals. How the game is rigged against the poor, working class minorities, including the tribal people.
- . “In Assam population share of Bengalis is rising, but what does it mean?” 8 August, 2018. Debarshi Das on the claim that the NRC is justified because Bengalis are a large portion of Assam’s population and the Assamese people are becoming a minority.
- ‘ “Decades of Discord: Assam Against Itself” 11 August, 2018. Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee’s personal account on the bitter fights that have been going on in Assam for decades and how the NRC is likely to be one more episode.
- . “Solution to Assam’s foreigners problem” 17 August, 2018. Sandeep Pandey on a feasible solution of the mass human tragedy created by the NRC.
- . “An open letter to Hiren Gohain” 1 September, 2018. Nilanjan Dutta responds to Hiren Gohain, a noted left intellectual of Assam, whose stand on the NRC is being examined.
- . “What is the way out of the NRC crisis?” 15 September, 2018. Debarshi Das on the likely outcomes from the NRC, and the proposals made by different quarters vis-a-vis the NRC. Does a feasible, humane resolution exist?
- . “Growing up Miya in Assam: How the NRC weaponised my identity against me” 23 September, 2018. Abdul Kalam Azad on his personal experience of growing up as a Muslim of East Bengali origin, the majority community’s not-so-concealed day to day discrimination.
- ‘ “In the court of last resort” 3 October, 2018. Gautam Bhatia examines the legal premise of the NRC process.
- . “What lies behind the killing of five labouring class Bengali youths in Assam?” 4 November, 2018. Debarshi Das on the killing of five Bengali men in Tinsukia by unknown gunmen, how the politics around the NRC and CAB is creating an incendiary condition of distrust between communities.
- . “NAGARIKS ON THE ROLLS: NRC AND THE PREVAILING CONSENSUS IN ASSAM” 8 November, 2018. Ankur Tamuli Phukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa on a section of intellectuals (Axom Nagarik Samaj) who are eager to toe the line dictated by the state.
- . “Wielding the bamboo: The media in Assam is marching for the cause of Assamese hyper-nationalism” 12 November, 2018. Debarshi Das on how and why the sensationalist and biased media fan majoritarian sentiments.
- . “In Bengal and Assam, BJP-TMC Tussle Over Namasudra Votes Has Reached New Heights” 13 November, 2018. Debarshi Das on the fight over Namasudra votes between the BJP and the TMC in Assam and West Bengal, in the aftermath of the churning created by the NRC and CAB.
- . “Assam NRC: Govt Clueless About How Many Illegal Immigrants Actually Live in India, RTI Shows” 16 November, 2018. Prasenjit Bose and Debarshi Das on the lack of evidence of Bangladeshi infiltration in Assam, and the consequent lack of premise of the Supreme Court judgement.
- . “People no country wants” 2 January, 2019. Harsh Mander and Abdul Kalam Azad’s commentary after the deadline of filing claims and objections got over. About a million NRC-rejects did not reapply. What awaits them and others whose application would get eventually rejected?
- . “On the NRC, Even the Supreme Court is Helpless” 7 January, 2019. Mohsin Alam Bhat’s commentary on the mess that an overzealous Supreme Court has created, the political-legal disbalance that the NRC process has given rise to.