19, Nov 2019 | Sanchita Kadam
The fact that the process of NRC has wreaked havoc in the state of Assam is known to all. The repercussions of a nation-wide NRC and amendments in Citizenship Act will naturally be large scale and are unfathomable at the moment. Activists in Mumbai gathered at this workshop to get informed about the impending NPR, NRC and Citizenship Amendment Bill and left with a will to spread awareness about the same.
This workshop was an immediate follow-up to the first such meeting held by CJP along with People’s Union for Civil Liberties – PUCL & other organisations, in solidarity with the Assam NRC affected in Mumbai. The discussions on future strategies at the meeting held on October 11, including a sustained community level campaign in Mumbai.
On November 16, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in association with National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), organised a workshop for grassroot-level, community activists interested in being informed about the nation-wide NRC (National Register of Citizens), NPR (National Population Register) and their implications on citizenship in India. More than 50 activists attended this workshop held at Janta Kendra, Tardeo between 2pm to 6 pm.
This is part of an ongoing effort, training people in the use and knowledge of the law, for enforcement of human rights. CJP remains committed to strengthening the respect and adherence to all human rights in the Courts and beyond. In this endeavor, spreading knowledge and awareness of one’s rights, especially among populations that are the most vulnerable to their abuse, the most marginalized, is crucial. Among the groups that CJP most closely works with, and for, are not just minorities but minorities within the minorities, the women. Help us both widen and deepen this effort. Donate now to support us.
Since Assam is the inception point of the NRC, the same was used as a case study and a holistic picture of Assam was given to the activists, replete with inputs from Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, CJP. Videos made by CJP as a part of their on-going campaign in Assam since 2018 were shown as explainers to the group. Setalvad took the activists through history of NRC in Assam, its particular context and distinguished this from the legal and constitutional history of Citizenship in the rest of India. Raising questions on the need and basis for the NRC in the rest of the country is crucial, especially among the marginalised. The functioning of Foreigners Tribunals and conditions in Assam’s detention camps also figured in the training. The three and a half hour long session was inter-active.
The real possibility of such a bureaucratic-heavy exercise rendering citizens stateless is high. Come April 2020 when the exercise for the National Population Register (NPR) begins, the modalities as in the cut-off dates and documents of evidence and proof are not clear. Snatching someone’s citizenship amounts to “civil death” of that person, Setalvad explained. It was a time to forge unity among different sections of the people as the motive for many in the ruling party is to actually discriminate among Indians and create levels and sections of second-class and disempowered citizens. Eventually it is the migrant labour, the religious and linguistic minorities, women, agrarian labour that will be most vulnerable to exclusion and abuse of the process.
Teesta Setalvad then went on to explain the Citizenship Act as it stands today and explained the constitutional provisions pertaining to citizenship. She also drew linkages between how NRC will come into picture after the NPR and how CAB will change the provisions for citizenship. She also emphasized on how NPR is a first step towards NRC and how the modalities of NPR have not been defined by the government, who is using it simply as a divisive measure.
Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Malegaon
Amidst the nationwide crisis and clamour around the NRC, CJP is rendering expert advice, conducting trainings, helping citizens build by the capacity to fight back. Our meeting in Mumbai made a beginning with more being held across Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Malegaon. CJP is a lone warrior equipping ordinary Indians to fight back. There is no need to panic but we need to be prepared.
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 is telling citizens across India, to fight back, democratically. Anywhere where we need to reach our expertise and training, we will. Ask us. Join us. Join this movement for the Rights of All in the Courts and beyond. Recognising the looming humanitarian crisis that has affected hundreds of thousands in the state, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has over the past two years and more, stepped in to alleviate suffering and ensure the protection of rights of the most marginalised in Assam.
CJP has produced a pithy booklet, Who Is an Indian –does the Law and Constitution decide?
The English booklet may be read here.
भारतीय कौन है, क्या कानून और संविधान तय करता है? that is being widely made available for the activist fraternity.
The Hindi booklet may be read here.
CJP’s several videos made around the Assam campaign are also useful in spreading awareness. As are the Videos that emerged out of the first meeting in Mumbai, organised along with PUCL on October 11, 2019.
Assam: CJP is gearing up for battles that lie ahead
Assam: How our Volunteer Motivators are Making an Impact
Behind Shadows: Tales of Injustice from Assam’s Detention camps
Many questions were raised and asked about the process and its implementation. There was a unanimous call for unity amongst all communities and for organization of committees at grassroots level, to question elected representatives at administrative as well as legislature levels; to educate and inform people at community level and to raise voices against the Citizenship Amendment Bill and NPR and NRC like processes.
There was a common sentiment among the activists present that such information should be spread widely in all communities and they felt the need for awareness on the topic. The workshop culminated into all activists naming their movement “Nagrikta Bachao Abhiyaan” and them shouting “Nagrikta Bachao Abhiyaan Zindabad!”
The most rewarding was the reaction from seasoned activists: “We came worried and confused. We go away with clarity and resolve, to counter this challenge, together!”