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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Aimed at removing Bangladeshi infiltrators, the NRC is claiming Bengali Hindu lives more

The NRC (National Register of Citizens) was first created in 1951 as a register containing names of all genuine Bharatiya citizens. Since 2013, under the strict monitoring and supervision of the Supreme Court of Bharat, the NRC has been updated for the state of Assam with the goal of removing illegal immigrants and curbing their further influx from Bharat’s Muslim-majority neighbour, Bangladesh (earlier East Pakistan).

The infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals from the Eastern borders due to years of negligence has seen a steady rise through the decades – it is currently estimated that at least 2 crore (20 million) illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are present across Bharat, most in Eastern part of the country. While the bulk of these illegal immigrants are believed to be Muslims, a sizeable chunk are Hindus fleeing the severe religious persecution they face in Bangladesh. 

However, the NRC exercise in Assam is believed to have excluded over 10 lakh Hindu Bengalis, out of total of 19.06 lakh exclusions, creating an atmosphere of panic among this linguistic minority community in Assam. Another 1-2 lakh exclusions are believed to be Gorkhas and other ethnic Hindu communities, while the rest 6-7 lakh excluded are Muslims. None of these numbers have been officially confirmed, though. 

Though limited to the north eastern states and parts of Bengal initially, the Muslim infiltrates, many of whom are found to be engaged in criminal & terrorist activities, have now spread across the length and breadth of the country like an epidemic. Clearly, they pose a threat to the sovereignty of this country, and hence, should be deported for good.

Common sense and morality dictates that the Hindu Bengali refugees feeling religious persecution should be allowed to stay in their spiritual homeland Bharat, but equally distributed across all states to avoid burdening a few states alone.

While the political game of allegations & counter-allegations is underway in Assam and West Bengal, the fact remains that this Supreme Court mandated exercise under the independent NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela has been a flawed one. Many Hindus who had migrated to Bharat from Bangladesh to escape atrocities at the hands of Islamists of that country, are now under stress of being forced back. Many discrepancies have come to light such as NRC authorities refusing to accept refugee certificates granted by the Assam government before 1971 to such migrants, to which Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma have expressed great dissatisfaction. 

But beyond politics and dispute of international borders, it is the lives, identities and future of a million Hindus that have been put to question. The regular Bengali in Assam is living under the threat of displacement. Several cases of suicide have come to surface owing to missing names in the list. We list a few of them below.

One of the first Hindus to take his life because of anxiety over NRC was 57-year-old Angad Sutradhar. In 2015, the unschooled labourer from Baksa, Assam hung himself from a tree because of the complexities of the NRC verification process. It is evident from his son Jyotish’s claims that the fear of being stripped of citizenship had directed his father toward the extreme step, though there was no suicide note left by the deceased.

In September 2018, 37-year-old Binoy Chand, frustrated by the exclusion of his mother’s name in the controversial citizens’ list, killed himself. The daily wage-earning worker had just had a son 20 days ago, but having lost all money fighting the legal battle for his mother’s citizenship in the Foreigners’ Tribunal, he was rendered disheartened. The family struggling to make ends meet with their exhausted resources, couldn’t approach the High Court to give it one last try either. 

Binoy Chand’s aged mother (Source: NDTV)

In October 2018, 74-year-old Nirod Baran Das, a retired teacher hailing from Dalgaon in Darang district of Assam took his life after being tagged a foreigner in his own land. He wanted to “escape the humiliation of being marked as a foreigner after the NRC process,” as stated in his suicide note. Barring him, all his family members, including his wife, daughters, their husbands, and their children were included in the list. Gopal Chandra Das of Odalgudi and Bimal Chandra Ghosh of Tangla, also ended their own lives last year.

Nirod Baran Das’s grieving family (Source: Twitter)

Sabitri Ray, a Tripura-born lady who migrated to Assam after marriage was rejected from NRC despite submitting a 1966 legacy document of Tripura. She committed suicide due to the social insult she experienced.

It is estimated that anywhere from 33 to 58 people have committed suicide due to the NRC process, including several Muslims too.

There are some activists working to help the Hindus sufferers of NRC. Kumud Ram Das, an underprivileged Bengali man in Assam was held in a detention center for over a year after his name failed to show up on the citizenship list. His wife had to take a bank loan and mortgage her trees. Led by activist Prasun Maitra, netizens came forward to aid of the family & Kumud’s name has finally been included in the NRC earlier this month.

The situation of Bengali Hindus in Assam seems increasingly precarious. Apart from correcting flaws in the NRC process, this makes it all the more incumbent upon politicians of this country to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and provide unconditional & immediate citizenship to Hindu migrants. 

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