Union home minister Amit Shah’s statement in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday — that the government will identify illegal immigrants across the country and deport them — causes misgivings.
The exercise conducted in Assam so far has placed four million persons out of the state’s 33-million population on the hitlist. That is 12 per cent of the total, mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims. They are trying desperately to get themselves included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) by producing various documents.
In the floods devastation lately, lakhs of people have lost their homes. It’s not clear how they can now show any documents at all. In a nation where Cabinet ministers are hard put to produce documents to establish their educational qualifications, it is not clear how illiterate millions can establish their nationality.
In the same family, some siblings clear the nationality test, others don’t. It’s a shocking state of affairs. The names of many on the doubtful list have been supplied by ghost spotters, whose addresses are obviously phoney. In some cases, a fictitious spotter has pointed fingers at as many as 1,000 persons. This is a outright fascist method. Obviously, right-wing, nativist, elements are at it.
Until 2016, around 75,000 persons had been found not to make the citizenship cut. This figure has jumped to 40 lakhs at the end of 2018. This alone creates suspicions about perversity of process.
In this atmosphere, it’s worrying that the home minister should say in categorical language: “In future, we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country.” Surprisingly, the Assam experience has not given the government pause.