Scroll.in – The Daily Fix: BJP’s NRC threats could endanger census and data collection by all Indian agencies

Panic related to citizenship means even routine data collection by government agencies is now in peril.

Shoaib Daniyal

Op/Ed, 13 February 2020. As part of its Hindutva ideology, the Bharatiya Janata Party has energetically pushed two polices that seek to fundamentally change the nature of Indian citizenship. The party has repeatedly announced that it will institute a National Register of Citizens, an unprecedented measure that seeks to get every citizen to prove their citizenship.

In December, it also passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time, brings in a religious element to India’s citizenship law.

Even more troublingly, the party has reiterated that the two initiatives are linked. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has implied on several occasions that with the Citizenship Amendment Act being implemented before the National Register of Citizens, only Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.

The Union government has also begun work on the National Population Register, the first step on the road to an NRC.

This attempt to institute a communal citizenship verification drive has set off alarm bells across India. Many Muslims now fear any attempt at data collection, seeing in it a drive towards an NRC. The result of this panic has been a widespread refusal to submit data to any agency suspected of being sent on behalf of the Indian state.

In just one district of West Bengal, for example, at least six incidents of NGO worker being accosted based on rumours that they were collecting NPR data have emerged after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in December.

In another instance in Uttar Pradesh, state government employees collecting health data were held hostage by a mob. In Rajasthan, two women collecting data for the Economic Census were attacked on suspicion of collecting NPR data. In Kerala, a state government official conducting an agricultural census was forced to call the police after a mob accosted him.

This panic has meant that multiple state government attempts at data collection as well as the Union government’s National Sample Survey are now facing enormous roadblocks. A Scroll.in report found that for the first time in 148 years, the Census is also in danger, given that door-to-door data collection for the NPR and Census are scheduled to be conducted simultaneously.

Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician of India and head of the Modi’s government’s Standing Committee on Economic Statistics explained how dire the situation would be if the Census were to collapse:

“So, you may well have a situation where you are unable to do the Census properly and if the Census is not done properly, then for the next 10 years, no household survey would be reliable because all household surveys rely on the Census as the frame.”

Without data, India will be unable to frame developmental policies. Even more alarmingly, no country can afford a situation where widespread panic means even a government act as simple as a survey is not possible.

The cause for this panic is clear: the BJP’s attempts to force through an NRC has set off an destabilising chain of events. The party must now immediately fix the problem it has created.

Given that the National Popular Register is the first step to the National Register of Citizens, two states, West Bengal and Kerala, have already suspended it. However, this is not enough. Both states are still seeing continuous public alarm over the NPR.

It is clear that the Modi government itself needs to suspend the National Population Register and repeal the 2003 Citizenship Rules, which create the legal framework for a National Register of Citizens.

https://scroll.in/article/952975/the-daily-fix-bjps-blustering-nrc-threats-could-endanger-data-collection-by-all-indias-agencies

Pieter Friedrich – The Bravehearts protesting in India

Yesterday, the 20th of December, marked the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s release from prison after a failed attempt to seize power.

While he was behind bars, he wrote his manifesto.

After he was released, Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925. In the same year, the RSS, a fascist paramilitary, was founded in India with the goal of establishing a theocratic Hindu state.

As the RSS grew, it developed with direct inspiration from the Nazis. Its leaders praised Nazi racial policies like the Nuremberg Laws. Its ideologues compared Indian Muslims to German Jews.

The Nazis lost. They faded away. But the RSS took root and flourished.

Today, the RSS rules India.

Today, the RSS is ramming through its own saffronized version of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws.

The Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, combined, set the stage for the Aryanization of India.

That’s why millions of Indians are on the streets right now protesting, putting their lives on the line, to reject the CAA and the NRC.

Ask me what democracy looks like, and I will point to the brave-hearts protesting on the streets of India.

But like any bonafide totalitarian, Modi has banned protests. He has shut down the internet. He has sent in the stormtroopers to bust heads. He is jailing anyone who dissents. He is killing anyone who protests.

His regime even ordered Indian TV channels to stop broadcasting footage of the protests.

So what are we here in America, on the other side of the world, going to do about it?

As they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

In the 1930s, while the Nazis were staging pogroms against the Jews, some Americans were hosting rallies in support of the Nazis.

In 1939, for instance, 20,000 people attended a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

75 years later, that rally was replicated when 20,000 people attended a Madison Square Garden reception organized for Modi by the Nazi-inspired RSS.

And just three months ago, in Houston, Texas, the RSS once again organized a propaganda bonanza to whitewash the blood-drenched Modi.

For a time, we saw America going down in history as an ally of Nazism. Then consciences were pricked. Principle prevailed.

Unlike Indians, we don’t face an onslaught of oppression, what we face is as a crisis of conscience.

Will we, as Americans, once again give space for fascism to take root in our free soil?

Or will we stand up? Speak out. Pledge our loyalty to those brave-hearts protesting in India, and unite around the common cause of opposing fascism everywhere it is found in the world today.

Will you raise your voice with me today in support of liberty?

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at pieterfriedrich.net.

www.pieterfriedrich.net

Scroll.in – Kashmir has been turned into a graveyard, says CPI(M) leader released from detention

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami asked the public to ‘rise in protest against the oppression of people in Kashmir’.

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 05 January 2020. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami on Friday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre of turning Kashmir into a “virtual prison” and a graveyard, PTI reported.

Tarigami, who addressed the foundation day programme of party newspaper Ganashakti in Kolkata, called on the public to “rise in protest against the oppression of people of Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution”.

Tarigami was placed in detention following India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status. However, he was allowed to move out of Kashmir for medical treatment following a Supreme Court order in September.

The Narendra Modi government had detained many Kashmiri politicians, including three former chief ministers, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti, since 05 August.

Tarigami also dismissed the Centre’s claim that not a single bullet had been fired since the security lockdown. He said there was no longer any need to fire bullets as Kashmir had been turned into a “graveyard”.

“How much freedom we got after [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah repealed Article 370,” Tarigami remarked sarcastically. “He says everyday there has been no firing and the situation is peaceful. You have made Kashmir a graveyard. What is the point of firing then?”

Tarigami said former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik had said there were no plans to revoke the Union Territory’s special status, but pointed out that it was suddenly announced in Parliament. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader accused the government of violating the spirit of Constitution.

“Some people feel surprised how CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] and NRC [National Register of Citizens] can come all off a sudden,” he said. “It is not, it was all in their mind, part of their agenda. Today it is Kashmir, tomorrow it can be somewhere else.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on 11 December, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.

The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people have died so far in protests against the Act. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed exercise to list undocumented immigrants. It was conducted out in Assam last year, leading to the exclusion of 19 lakh people, or 6% of the state’s population.

https://scroll.in/latest/948750/kashmir-has-been-turned-into-a-graveyard-says-cpi-m-leader-released-from-detention

Pieter Friedrich – Why I’m protesting: BJP’s Citizenship Bill Mirrors Nuremberg Laws

Santa Clara – California – USA, 15 December 2019. When Nazi Germany passed the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, they made it illegal for non-Germans to be citizens. Germans had to prove that they had Aryan ancestry.

India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill mirrors those Nazi laws. Instead of segregating people by genetics, it segregates them by religion. It makes religion the basis for citizenship.

CAB is only the latest in a line of recent fascist actions in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “New India.” It has been a grim year for India as Modi’s BJP rams through its Hindu nationalist agenda with blitzkrieg speed. After Modi was re-elected in May, he wasted no time in implementing the BJP’s long-standing demands.

That includes:

  1. Enacting the National Register of Citizens in Assam, ultimately stripping nearly 2 million Assamese of citizenship. Modi’s government is currently building concentration camps to house these people who have been newly-made stateless.
  2. Scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Modi’s government stripped the only Muslim-majority state in India of its semi-autonomous status, then stole away its statehood. Kashmir remains under martial law.
  3. Giving the green light to build a temple on disputed land in Ayodhya, and handing over the rights to do so to the same people responsible for the violent demolition of the mosque that once stood on that site.

A grim week concludes this grim year now that Modi’s regime has passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The BJP’s next goal is to implement the National Register of Citizens across the whole country. This puts all residents of India in the position of having to prove their citizenship.

CAB and NRC combined provide a legal route for the BJP to begin cleansing the land of Muslims, and, ultimately, of all non-Hindus.

That’s the goal of the BJP, and the Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary that controls it.

Calling the RSS “Nazi-inspired” is not a euphemism.

Not only was the RSS founded the same year that Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, but its guru, a man called MS Golwalkar, wanted to copy Nazi racial policies.

When the Nazis staged pogroms against the Jews, Golwalkar called it the highest form of “race pride.” He praised Nazi Germany for “purging the country” of Jews. He called the Nazi racial policies, the Nuremberg Laws, “a good lesson for us to learn and profit by.”

The guru of the RSS said that any Indian who is not a Hindu is a “traitor” and called it “treason” to be a non-Hindu in India. Today, Modi calls that RSS leader his “guru worthy of worship.”

Today, the current head of the RSS says that India is a Hindu nation.

One of the final nails in the coffin of Indian secularism will be a national anti-conversion law, a law requiring people to receive government permission to change their religion, thus criminalizing freedom of religion.

In these grim times, hope is the one thing we must never give up no matter how hopeless the situation seems. Stay filled with hope, even blind, stupid, irrational hope.

Because we know the truth.

We know Hitler always loses.

As they say in Hindi: “Jo Hitler ka raj karega, vo Hitler ki maut marega.”

Those who rule like Hitler will meet Hitler’s end.

Friedrich speaks at CAB protest in Santa Clara, CA on 15 December

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Discover more by him at

www.pieterfriedrich.net

Dawn – Article 370 gone and Ram Temple on the way: What does Modi’s New India look like?

So much has been accomplished by the Hindutva forces in the last 10 months that it is hard to predict what comes next

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan

Scroll.in – 10 November 2019. When the year began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announcing, introducing and passing a Constitutional Amendment introducing a 10 per cent quota for the upper-caste poor, we should have known this would have been a year in which just about anything could happen.

The massive mandate Modi’s government was given in the Lok Sabha polls in May only cemented this impression.

And so, this weekend, following a landmark Supreme Court verdict, it became clear that Ayodhya is going to get a Ram Temple on the spot where an organised Hindutva mob in 1992 demolished a 16th-century mosque, known as the Babri Masjid, sparking riots around the country.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this case, here’s an extremely basic recap: For over a century, Hindus and Muslims have clashed over this spot in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stands, with the Hindus claiming it is the birthplace of Ram, one of the avatars of Vishnu.

In 1949, Hindutva organisations conspired to place a Ram idol in the mosque, effectively turning it into a makeshift Hindu temple and leading to a court case over who owns the land.

Then in the 1980s, the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, used a nationwide campaign for the building of a Ram temple on the spot as a means of whipping up passions (and sparking off violence), culminating in mass-scale vandalism that demolished the mosque on December 6, 1992.

Since then the case had been in court, although it has always been politically volatile, with the BJP promising a Ram temple.

Many faultlines about Indian politics and society were exposed by the case, from the tremendous emotive power of Hindu nationalism to the difficulty other political parties have had in defending secularism, from India’s insistence on turning back to disputes from centuries ago to the growing marginalisation of Muslims.

This reading list should get you caught up on the background

On Saturday, the Supreme Court sat on the weekend to pronounce its decision in the case, after a record 40 days of arguments and two abortive attempts at mediation.

The short version of the verdict: The land goes to the Hindus, and the government has to set up a trust that will oversee all activities on it, including the construction of a temple. To make up for the mosque demolition, the Muslim parties will get another plot of land, double the size, but somewhere else, to be decided by the (BJP-run) state government.

The political implications are myriad, some of which Shoaib Daniyal has collected here.

Here’s my thread on Scroll.in’s coverage of the judgment and The Weekend Fix also collected the most interesting reads from around the web on the subject yesterday.

Even earlier this year, before the elections, there were some people who believed that a Ram temple might not be built in their lifetimes, partly because the promise of one seemed more potent politically than the temple itself.

Yet, things have moved swiftly since then. Modi managed to unilaterally alter the position of Jammu and Kashmir, though until the people of the Valley are free to speak their mind, the fallout of that move remains unclear.

Now, the Supreme Court has cleared the decks for a Ram temple. The question to ask is: What next? Article 370 gone, Ram temple on the way, what could the Modi government have in mind following this?

Its socio-cultural agenda is, to some extent, clear:

  • A pan-India National Register of Citizens, as Home Minister Amit Shah has been promising for some time now, along with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which combined would essentially mean state-sanctioned harassment of Muslims.
  • A Uniform Civil Code: A long-standing right-wing demand that seeks to abolish the personal law of individual religions, essentially forcing minorities to follow the laws of the majority.
  • An anti-conversion law: Another old demand, in place in a few states, that ties into the Hindu Right’s belief that poor Indians are often converted to Christianity through “bribes”.

In many of these cases, the question is not if but when. Will the BJP find it useful to push everything now, in the hopes that it can blunt the impact of what appears to be a severe slowdown?

Or will it hold on to some of these moves, so that they can be used as selling points ahead of major state elections, or even the Lok Sabha polls in 2024?

So much has been accomplished by the Hindutva forces in the last 10 months that it is hard to predict what comes next. But what is clear is that, despite setbacks at the state-level and an economic slowdown, on the national stage, the BJP’s flag is flying high and for now it can attempt to accomplish just about anything.

This article was originally published in Scroll.In and has been reproduced with permission.
Illustration: Nithya Subramanian

https://www.dawn.com/news/1516082/article-370-gone-and-ram-temple-on-the-way-what-does-modis-new-india-look-like

Dawn – Growing humanitarian crisis

The scale of it is eye-watering: 1.9 million people excluded from the final list of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, published by the Indian government on Saturday.

Editorial, 03 September 2019. These are the people, mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims, that have been deemed to be ‘foreigners’ by virtue of being unable to prove that they or their forebears lived or entered India before March 1971, prior to which Bengalis were actively encouraged to migrate to India. Many have been living in Assam for decades, or have known no other home but India.

With the threshold for documentary proof high, and the appeals process long and murky, the process of updating the NRC has been mired in controversy given the BJP’s penchant for stoking anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiment.

Narendra Modi’s home minister has gone as far as to promise that the NRC will be implemented across India, to root out those who he describes as ‘infiltrators’ and has likened to vermin.

Given that discrimination and dehumanisation are often precursors to a potential genocide, it is little wonder that human rights groups are so alarmed. Over 1,100 people are already imprisoned in Assam’s so-called foreigner detention centres. There are fears that mass internment is impending, or worse, such as forced displacements and genocidal massacres.

If the Rohingya crisis of 2017, when hundreds of thousands were stripped of Burmese citizenship and forced to flee Myanmar into Bangladesh, seemed a colossal human tragedy, what may occur in Assam might well be even more unimaginably catastrophic.

Rendering people stateless is an inhumane practice.

If an individual does not legally belong anywhere, then no nation is responsible for ensuring their rights, survival or even existence.

While the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons does ensure basic protections, denying individuals a national identity effectively denies them the right to have rights, and states have in fact used the revocation of citizenship as a political tool to punish opponents and critics, and even change demographics.

This is why even the handful of cases of Western-born IS fighters and collaborators being stripped of citizenship has been so contentious; though it is important to stress that, here, it is the lives of countless entirely innocent civilians that are at stake.

Rendering people of Bangladeshi-origin stateless, at risk of being alienated, killed or shunted about in internment centres and refugee camps, is an incalculable humanitarian crisis in the making.

India’s move in Assam will undoubtedly strain its ties with Bangladesh, which has shown no indication it will accept these ‘unwanted’ humans, but it is incumbent on both nations to negotiate a reasonable and humane settlement to this brewing crisis.

Bangladesh must come to some sort of an agreement with India, and soon, as well as reconsider its policies with regard to the status of the stateless Rohingya seeking refuge within its borders.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1503257/growing-humanitarian-crisis

The Telegraph – How a government and bureaucracy betrayed its people

No section of Assam’s population has been left unaffected by the overpowering, State-created tragedy of the NRC

Teesta Setalvad
Guwahati – Assam – India, 22 July 2019. So far, at least in ‘mainland’ India, we have been relatively insulated from the tortures and traumas caused by public authorities demanding proof of whether or not we are Indian. In the far corners of Assam, however, turmoil and anguish reign. Some of our most economically weak people have been ground down to desperation as a peculiarly callous and even motivated bureaucracy rules over their fate.

According to a meticulous list compiled by Citizens for Justice and Peace in Assam, there have been 58 citizenship related deaths as of July 18, 2019. Almost all of them hail from working class agrarian or urban backgrounds. Of these 28 are Hindus, 27 Muslims, one Boro, one Gorkha and one is a member of the Tea Tribes.

The numbers of those dead have so far not touched us in the rest of India. However, when 40 lakh plus of Indians were excluded from the provisional National Register of Citizens last July, a sense of the magnitude began to percolate through.

The NRC, a process both complex to understand and unique to Assam, was a consensual process arrived at after the tumultuous years that preceded the Assam Accord, when aggression, strife and violence marred a politics that was driven by real or imagined fears of the outsider.

The discourse has been twisted cleverly to now mean ‘foreigner’ and ‘infiltrator’. So it is these peculiar and seemingly parochial preconditions that have to be factored in to understand how and why a wide consensus developed around the process of a ‘free and fair’ NRC. Terms like ‘genuine Indian citizens’ have now emerged to form an integral part of the wider humanitarian discourse within the state.

Legally, the NRC in Assam is today being finalized under the Citizenship Act, 1955, which applies to all Indians (with a special amendment that relates to Assam) and under the special provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2003.

The ‘Modalities of NRC’ — under which this process has to be undertaken — are thorough. These Modalities (2003 onwards) were prepared on the basis of a common consensus arrived at with all stakeholders in the state. These included the supporters of the Assam Movement, various religious and linguistic minority organizations, and all the political parties of Assam. It was truly a hard earned consensus.

Thereafter, these Modalities were approved by a cabinet sub-committee of the government of Assam and then sent to the NRC authority. After the approval from the NRC authority, these were sent to the registrar general of India under the department of home, government of India.

Understanding these Modalities is to judge whether today’s process is fair. After elaborate discussions, the Modalities approved as many as 15 kinds of documents as legacy documents and another 10 sorts of documents known as ‘linkage documents’, which could and must be used during evaluating the applications of genuine Indian citizens for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC.

All these documents were approved by the RGI and subsequently by the Supreme Court of India. It was on the basis of any or all of these documents that the process was to be finalized.

However, perversions and manipulations have dogged the process of late. After 2016, the acceptability of some of the documents which were initially approved in the Modalities (for finalization of the NRC-Assam) were ‘diminished’, owing to the damaging intentions of various authorities.

When these were brought to the attention of the court, some of these were rectified. However, at the ground level, in spite of this disapproval by the court that is monitoring this mammoth process, the NRC authority continues with its questionable task of diminishing the acceptability of some of the ‘Legacy’ and ‘Linkage’ documents.

The motive appears to be not just to harass the common citizen but to perform to a ‘target’ set by political bosses.

To elaborate, the NRC authority has ‘diminished’ the acceptability of the citizenship certificate, migration certificate, refugee inmate certificate. Besides, all government documents including the voters list issued from Bengal and Tripura have been rejected.

All this has happened during the ongoing process of the finalization of the NRC. All birth certificates issued by the Nagaland government authority have been rejected without the minimum steps or any initiative to prove the documents’ authenticity being taken.

Further, within the NRC Modalities, there was a strong provision — well thought out — whereby an arrangement was put in place for a district magistrate investigation team to intervene. This provision ensured and assured any Indian citizen of a forum he or she could approach on the question. If, for instance, a genuine Indian citizen failed to submit proper documents, these could be investigated independently by the DMIT.

The team was empowered to meet local people, and after proper investigation, had the power to approve the inclusion of a name of an orphan, destitute or a person having no documents, especially the ‘linkage’ documents. This entire provision has been ignored, dropped from the on-going process.

Finally, there was a last, strong, fall-back provision, also within the Modalities, that laid down the DNA test as an ultimate arbiter for the finalization of a claim for the inclusion of a name while updating the NRC (when all else failed).

The provision was also struck down by the office of the RGI unilaterally. The highest court in the land has not been kept fully apprised of these deletions.

There is more. During the course of this finalization process, large numbers of applications have been rejected because of minor discrepancies in the names, titles, age differences in the legacy documents and the user of such legacy documents.

This in spite of the fact that ‘Modalities of NRC’ state otherwise: that minor discrepancies of the names, ages, titles will not affect the legitimate demand for inclusion of a name in the updated NRC. However, on the ground, at the 1,200 plus Nagrik Seva Kendras, this specific assurance is being given the go-by, causing injustice and mass exclusions.

There is no section of the population in Assam that has been left unaffected by this overpowering, State-created tragedy. Bengali-speaking Hindus, Muslims, the Gorkhas, Hindi-speaking people of north and west India have all been caught up in this, equally.

There is no way to describe what this unfolding trauma has meant, for women and men to attend hearings scheduled in places far away from home, spending significant amounts of money filling in applications. Worse, they are summoned to appear not once, but repeatedly, along with ‘legacy persons’.

This means that, in some cases, many people have even had to attend hearings as many as seven to 14 times along with their entire troupe of family tree members. This means a batch of 40-80 persons from an extended family having to travel up to hundreds of kilometres from their place of residence.

Not too far back, a professor from a prominent university of Delhi had to rush three times from Delhi to Lakhimpur in Upper Assam, which is about 3,000 kilometres, along with all his family members .

What is the legal recourse for persons unfairly or otherwise left out of the final NRC? The courts? An executive order of the ministry of home affairs (May 2019), now under challenge in the court, tries to diminish due process and an Indian citizen’s right to citizenship by compelling those excluded from the NRC to approach Foreigners Tribunals.

What are these bodies? Created specially in Assam under the pre-Independence Act of 1946, they are non-transparent bodies, about 100 in number. Fair adjudication of citizenship under the 1955 Citizenship Act needs to be undertaken under the Citizenship Tribunals constituted under that law. Confusions abound as injustice persists.

With inputs from Nandu Ghosh, Bijni and Zamser Ali.

Teesta Setalvad is secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/nrc-how-a-government-and-bureaucracy-betrayed-its-people/cid/1694949