Making the festive season more inclusive
Sir — With Durga Puja less than a month away, there is already some heartening news surrounding its preparations. This year, a puja committee has decided to convey a message of social inclusion by inviting autistic children to conduct the essential rituals at its mandap. Last year, it provided mantras in Braille and made the idol out of nails so that blind persons could get a feel of what the conventional Durga idol is like. In a world where women and people belonging to lower castes have to struggle everyday to be allowed into temples, Bengal indeed sets a rather progressive precedent.
Sir — Soon after the publication of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Amit Shah, who had earlier called illegal immigrants termites, thundered that no illegal immigrant would be allowed to stay in the country. Shah has also said that an NRC would be prepared for every state in India. But even after spending Rs 12,000 crore of public money on this project, only 19,06,657 people have been listed as illegal instead of the figure of 40 lakh earlier quoted by Shah (“In and out”, Sept 2). The NRC is thus now being treated as a “flawed document”, and has left the BJP a prisoner of its own rhetoric.
The chief Assam’s BJP unit has vowed to protect the rights of the genuine citizens of the country. In Assam, the ruling BJP is in a bind as its plan to throw out its illegal Muslim population with the help of the NRC has now backfired. The list shows that Hindus comprise a large proportion of those excluded from the NRC. This has demolished the myth of the ‘massive influx’ of illegal migrants into Assam that the party has been trying to propagate. All that the faulty list has accomplished is to have rendered thousands of hapless people — especially the poor and illiterate without documents to establish their residency or legacy — homeless in their own country. One only hopes that the Supreme Court intervenes in their case, and rescues them from an uncertain future and immense suffering.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,
Sir — The issue of the exclusion of over 19 lakh Assamese people from the final NRC has reached no resolution. Rather, it has stamped out the sense of humanity among people. It is difficult to understand how an Indian army officer, Mohammad Sanaullah, who has served for more than 30 years, could have failed to prove his citizenship.
Such problems inherent in the NRC process compel the citizens to doubt its credibility. The NRC should ideally include all those who presently reside in Assam, be it in the border areas or well within the state. Restrictions should be imposed on only those who enter the country illegally after the new list is prepared. Even so, considering the excluded people as foreigners goes against the notion of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that represents the idea of inclusiveness traditionally nurtured in India. One cannot deny that the history of mankind itself is a history of migration.
Sir — The final draft of the NRC has come as a shock to the ruling dispensation in Assam as well as others who have been fighting tooth and nail to weed out illegal migrants from the state for decades. The chaos across the political spectrum reveals that the NRC alone cannot resolve Assam’s migrant problem in spite of the high-octane rhetoric used by the political leadership, both at the Centre and in the state, to hoodwink voters. The list has created fear among genuine citizens who have failed to prove their citizenship and are left with a brief span of four months to appeal to the foreigners’ tribunals.
In its bid to identify outsiders, the NRC has left out many bona fide citizens of Assam, such as a Kargil war veteran and retired Indian army officer, Mohammad Sanaullah, a Sahitya Akademi awardee and president of the Assam Nepali Sahitya Sabha, Durga Khatiwada, the first woman martyr of the Assam agitation, Baijayanti Devi, and the great granddaughter of the freedom fighter, Chabilal Upadhyay, Manju Devi.
The government made the grand promise of only driving out illegal immigrants while protecting genuine citizens. But reality seems to point to a different direction. Among the 19 lakh people excluded from the NRC, comprising many Bengali Hindus, are about one lakh people from the Gorkha community, who have been marooned in their own homeland. The NRC was a wild goose chase designed to lure voters. The process lacks transparency, competent implementation and genuine concern from the leadership.
Janga Bahadur Sunuwar,