10, Dec 2019 | Sanchita Kadam
Even before nation-wide NRC (National Register of Citizens) and the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was proposed by the ruling government, CJP has spoken against propagation of NRC in other states apart from Assam.
CJP which has been relentless running a campaign in Assam to provide legal assistance to people excluded from the final NRC list, has real on-ground experience of the plight of people affected by NRC in Assam and hence can fathom the perilous effects of a nation-wide exercise from which our nation may never recover.
Now that the final NRC has been published, and 19,06,657 people have been excluded from the final list, CJP’s campaign has become even more focused. Our objective now, is to help these excluded people defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals. For this we have already started conducting a series of workshops to train paralegals to assist people at FTs. We will also be publishing a multi-media training manual containing simplified aspects of legal procedure, evidentiary rules, and judicial precedents that will ensure the appeals filed against the NRC exclusions in the FTs are comprehensive and sound, both in fact and in law. This will assist our paralegals, lawyers and the wider community in Assam to negotiate this tortuous process. For this we need your continued support. Please donate now to help us help Assam.
Teesta Setalvad, Secretary of CJP, had said in September, “The NRC was an issue in Assam but now it is being used to make the states clash with each other, pitting lingual communities against each other creating fissures between different castes. The states like West Bengal, Meghalaya and others should be very careful. A frenzy is being whipped up in these places to disturb the peace and create unrest.” One may say that she had rightly predicted that a nation-wide NRC would be divisive.
Ms. Setalvad has also termed NRC as a dangerous face of politics. While speaking in Hyderabad in October at an event, Ms. Setalvad had said that it would be prudent for public and political class to be ready for nationwide NRC.
CJP’s workshops and presence in seminars
What started as a solidarity meeting for people affected by NRC in Assam in October, within a month the same had to be expanded as a workshop for civil society on NRC and how NPR (National Population Register), NRC and CAB are connected. During the month of November, the intentions of the ruling government’s on introducing nation-wide NRC had become amply clear. The government has stayed silent on the question of connection between NRC and CAB but any prudent person can connect the dots between the two. NRC seeks to identify the citizens of India on basis of certain documents one may possess and ones who get excluded from such NRC would then be granted citizenship as per the amendments to Citizenship law, i.e. CAB; the caveat to this being that Muslims who are unable to prove their citizenship will not be granted one, while people belonging to other religions will be granted the same.
In order to understand repercussions of CAB, it is extremely important to understand what NRC seeks to do. Although there has been no clarity from the government on the same one can draw experience from NRC in Assam and envisage its effects on the entire nation. First such workshop for spreading awareness and information among civil society members working at grassroot levels was held in Mumbai on November 16. The aim was to share our case studies and on-ground experiences about the effects of the implementation of NRC in Assam, the NPR and the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB). In this workshop, activists raised slogans of “Nagrikta Bachao” and christened the movement as “Nagrikta Bachao Andolan” (Save the citizenship movement).
People have many questions with respect to NRC and CAB. What is the cut-off date going to be? What are the modalities to determine whether I am in or out of the NPR scheduled to begin in April 2020? While Assam had a specific and particular context, can a government, in a Democracy launch such a wide impact process without democratic discussion, deliberations, consultation and dialogue?
CJP even reached out to the women of Mumbra and received an overwhelming response to its call for Mohalla Volunteers. Organised by Awaaz-E-Niswaan (Women’s Voice), the meeting was attended by about a hundred women who had a number of questions about documents and the proposed NRC.
CJP’s Teesta Setalvad was the main speaker at an event held in Mumbai “NRC, NPR, and CAB: Discussion and Solutions.” organised by Pehel Foundation. The event was attended by 200 people including eminent lawyers, doctors and other citizens of the Mira-Bhayander area.
Ms. Setalvad noted that if NPR is implemented as a national exercise, the poor, the Muslims, migrant labourers, and linguistic minorities will be disproportionately targeted.
In her speech, she questioned the potential modalities that can be undertaken to be protocol. “According to UNICEF, only 58 per cent of people in India have birth registration certificates. We need to ask the government what other proofs they could be looking at.” Finally, Ms. Setalvad implored the audience to answer her call for a grassroots civil movement against the NRC, which received much support.
Ms. Setalvad was also invited as a key speaker at a seminar on NRC in Pune’s Azam campus organized by Dr P A Inamdar, Chairman of Dr. Haji Ghulam Mohammad Azam Education Trust. Here she said, “Progressive individuals and social groups must confront the challenges and save the Constitution. Secularism and unity of the country must prevail over divisive forces,” she said.
At a press conference in Pune, Ms. Setalvad said that understanding the Assam NRC experience is essential to counter the spectre of all India NRC. She quoted figures to say that only 51 percent Indians have birth certificates – how exactly does the Indian government plan to enumerate citizens? Ms Setalvad further said that a government that is unable to give employment to its people is only trying to divide the country using the NRC-NPR-CAB.
In the southern state of Kerala, the Thrissur Anti Fascist Front has passed a resolution against CAB-NPR-NRC by ED Davis in the presence of activist Teesta Setalvad who has been at the forefront of the battle against an All India NRC-NPR-CAB. The event ‘Independence of the plurality’ was organised by the Secular Forum on the occasion of Human Rights Day. It was attended by students, cultural activists and other eminent citizens of Thrissur.
CJP has produced a pithy booklet, Who Is an Indian –does the Law and Constitution decide?
The English booklet may be read here.