On the dangerous rhetoric post release of Assam's draft NRC

In the week since the final draft of the National Register of Citizens in Assam was completed, the political rhetoric has got irresponsibly away from the issue at hand. Those associated with the preparation of the NRC, including its Supreme Court-appointed coordinator, Prateek Hajela, are at pains to point out that the draft is by no means the end of the road. The more than 40 lakh people whose names are missing from the draft have a graded appeals process ahead, first at NRC seva kendras. Failing rehabilitation on the list at this stage, they can appeal to district magistrates, the Foreigners’ Tribunals, the Gauhati High Court and the Supreme Court. It is a long and daunting process, and a mature polity would ensure that that no man, woman or child is stranded without legal and other assistance to deal with the paperwork. Instead, a full-blown political spectacle has unfolded, with parties trivialising the complexity of the process. The president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, has filled the air with challenges to Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, to spell out their stand on “Bangladeshi immigrants” and clarify if they want them “to stay here or evict them”. Sundry BJP leaders have talked in favour of an NRC in every State, giving a threatening denominational twist to the issue. And West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, seemingly as willing to court her own political constituency over the NRC draft list, has warned of a “bloodbath” and a “civil war”.

There is a manifest lack of concern about those bracing themselves to go through the appeals process when one listens to a Telangana BJP MLA’s violent words, a Congressperson’s boasts about thousands of Bangladeshis deported on his party’s watch, or the TMC chief’s angry remarks. Each of those lakhs of persons who doesn’t find herself on the list is a human being, given to heaviness of heart at being left off a citizens’ list, wary of the process that lies ahead, and assailed by what-if scenarios. Among those on the list are people cutting across linguistic, ethnic and religious groups. Together, they do not fit the profile being conveyed by the dog-whistle politics of the BJP to sharpen its identity politics nationwide. In fact, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, of the BJP too, has implied as much, while counselling calm. Equally, the shrill politics at the national level is holding India back from facing the necessary questions: can it genuinely heed its civilisational legacy without issuing an assurance that nobody who has lived for a long time in this land will be rendered stateless? And that the country is confident of finding a way to close this process without disadvantaging those who will be off the eventual list and those on it?


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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 6:29:13 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/dangerous-rhetoric-post-release-of-assams-draft-nrc/article24617707.ece