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‘Poor, women will bear brunt of CAA, NRC’

People stage protest against NRC, CAA and NPR at Swami Vivekanand Park on Bhopal on January 3, 2020.

People stage protest against NRC, CAA and NPR at Swami Vivekanand Park on Bhopal on January 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Tribal, Dalit women meet in Bhopal to know how the law will affect them

Whenever Kochai Bai, a tribal, happens to catch the abbreviation ‘NRC’, it conjures up a sour memory: her grandfather’s eviction from the forests of Odisha by the British. Left without a birth or caste certificate, or even a proof of residence now, she is almost certain of a similar fate, lest the National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be implemented nationwide.

“But this time, I will lose citizenship, with no place to call home,” she said, wheezing. Unable to recall the year of her arrival in Bhopal, she remembers former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was alive then. Staying alone in Ganganagar now, Ms. Bai, 70, showing her trembling, calloused hands, said she had left selling vegetables on the streets long ago, and was on her own in her dotage.

‘So complicated’

Sitting along with another 100 women at a public park on Savitribai Phule’s birth anniversary on Friday, she was eager to know what the furore over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the NRC was about, and how it would affect her. “It is all so complicated. All I understand is that it will hit us, the poor, the most,” she said.

However, believes Savitri Bhatt, a puppeteer, the double jeopardy of being a woman and poor spelt greater vulnerability for them. “Men can easily procure documents as they have connections in the outside world. Yet, if women lead, they can fight for the entire family and put up a stronger front,” said Ms. Bhatt, 36, who makes ₹7,000 a month.

Stoking fear of exclusion among the poor and Muslims, the National Population Register (NPR), due with the 2021 Census exercise, is being seen as a sinister prelude to the nationwide NRC, whose previous model rendered thousands Stateless in Assam. In addition, protests have raged against the CAA across the country, leaving dozens dead, for purportedly violating the secular ethos of the Constitution by denying Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan from securing amnesty in India.

‘Creates contradiction’

The NRC will require verification of residential legacy, which mostly women will have a difficulty in proving, said Shivani Taneja, social worker, spreading awareness at the park. “Married women are displaced from maternal families and change names. They will be left to run around seeking proofs in case the NRC is implemented. When you ask a family about its members, they mention the son and the daughter-in-law, but not a married daughter, which creates contradiction,” she explained.

“We need to remember Phule, the first literate Indian woman, in fact a Dalit, and Fatima Sheikh, who gave her house to Phule to start a school. If citizenship is snatched away from us, how will women fight for rights like this?” asked Anjali Noronha, a social worker. “This is not just about papers, but our existence.”

Inter-faith cordiality

Illustrating an instance of inter-faith cordiality, Nasreen, also a participant, remarked that communal riots in Bhopal following the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 did not even touch her locality as Hindus residing there assured the area’s two Muslims families of safety, and asked them not to flee. “Now, we fear our citizenship will be taken away. It’s not about religion, but I will stand up even if my neighbour, of a different faith, is displaced. The government should have told us earlier even birth certificates could define a citizen. There were only non-institutional deliveries back then,” she added.

Meanwhile, Nanda Uikey, belonging to a nomadic community in Chhattisgarh, called upon the Central government to deploy more soldiers at borders if it was anxious about infiltrators. “Instead of spending funds to uplift the poor, it is interested in carrying out the costly exercise of verifying citizenship, that too through an exclusionary model,” she said.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 2:35:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/poor-women-will-bear-brunt-of-caa-nrc/article30472819.ece

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