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NRC Is A Massive Human Rights Violation: Modi And Amit Shah Have Also Risked The Lives Of All Indian Migrants

NRC plays a highly provocative role in disturbing the communal harmony in the country.

On July 30, 2018, the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) brought out its final updated draft list for Assam, which has rendered four million residents of the state stateless. The application process for inclusion in NRC commenced in 2015 and out of 32.9 million applicants, the names of only 28.9 million have been approved. Most people who have been left out are Bengali-speaking Muslims. Though they can apply again by filing a claim between August 30 and September 28 this year, they have already been declared “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”, no other than by the BJP president, Amit Shah.

As I had written two months back, this NRC draft has serious political and security implications, not only in Assam, but other neighboring states, including West Bengal and Meghalaya, as well. This issue has also pushed the fragile Bangladesh-India relations to the precipice as Bangladesh continues to maintain it’s India’s internal matter.

The situation in Assam is extremely critical, though central security forces have managed till now in preventing any serious law and order situation. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in seven districts of the state and even eight members of Trinamool Congress lawmakers have not been allowed to enter Assam. It is anyone’s guess how long the state can avoid being embroiled in a civil war-like situation once again.

Everyone with a right mind understands that deportation of the people who fail to get included in the NRC is not an option, so it is not yet clear if there is any plan on what to do with them except disenfranchise them from the country’s electoral processes.

In spite of serious security and foreign policy implications, the ruling party BJP and most of the media support the NRC exercise – they believe India is facing a serious threat from the illegal immigrants and thus needs to be tough on them. Commentators have been trying to project that India has been an economic success and a large number of people from other poorer countries, particularly Muslims, are dying to enter India and take the advantage of this nation’s prosperity and peace. This claim is highly fallacious as India itself has become one of the largest sources of illegal immigration to the rest of the world in recent years. Not only in the developed countries and the oil-rich Gulf, but also nearly one million Indians live and work in Bangladesh, and half of them are there illegally. Bangladesh has become the fourth largest remittance source for India remitting US $10 billion.

Illegal immigration from India in recent years has taken a huge proportion. The United States of America receives most of the immigrants these days, not from Mexico, but India. At the same time, India is also now the fastest growing source of new illegal immigrants to the USA. According to an estimate, by 2014, the number of illegal immigrants from India to the USA had reached around 500,000, the highest among all the Asian countries. New Jersey has become the hub of Indian illegal immigrants in the USA, where visa status of almost 150,000 Indians is under a cloud. As I have come across in the last two months of a field study, the increasing illegal migration that is taking place from India is due to the available support structure in the state. Most of these illegal immigrants are the computer graduates of South India who have entered the country with temporary work or study visa.

Canada receives a large number of immigrants legally every year and in the economy class, most of the immigrants are Indians. In spite of that many Indians also illegally enter to Canada and the number has gone up significantly after the election of Donald Trump as the President of the USA. Canada intends to deport these illegal immigrants, but India is refusing to accept them. Similarly, the UK authorities have estimated that nearly 100,000 Indians are living in their country illegally. But, Narendra Modi refused to sign the agreement when he visited the UK in May this year to see their return despite the fact that his junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju had signed a MoU with his British counterpart to that effect.

In Australia, New Zealand and even in Hong Kong, illegal migration from India has become a headache. Illegal migration from India is not just limited to developed democracies. More than half of migrant Indians live and work in the oil-rich Gulf countries. A story in India Today describes well the extent of economic migration to the Gulf from India: “Each week, 52 flights operated by 10 airlines carry full loads of Gulf-bound passengers. Out of every 10 job-seekers, two manage to find suitable jobs, four are turned back at the immigration counter in possession of forged documents, and the remainder are forced to accept jobs as sweepers, janitors or waiters.” Migration from India to the Gulf is not confined to air travellers only. A large number of illegal migrants from India are arriving with the help of small fishing boats and trawlers. Many legal immigrants from India even become illegal in a matter of minutes, as the immigration status in the Gulf countries is mostly dependent upon the employer’s whims.

According to the 2017 International Migration Report, India tops the world in the number of migrants sent abroad with 16.59 million while Mexico stands second with 13 million.

The number of Indian migrants living outside the country has more than doubled over the past 25 years, growing about twice as fast as the world’s total migrant population.

India also receives more remittances from its own legal and illegal immigrants than any other country in the world, amounting to roughly 3% of the country’s gross domestic product. Thus, more than any other country, India has the largest stake in promoting free movement of the people across borders in search of better livelihood as it gains from it the most. In this context, it is highly unfortunate that the present Indian government, by conducting the highly controversial and politically loaded NRC exercise, is standing together with the global fascist forces who are opposing migrant population in their respective countries in the name of protecting racial and ethnic purity.

The NRC exercise not only violates the basic human rights of millions of poor and underprivileged, it also plays a highly provocative role in disturbing the communal harmony in the country – the absence of the option for deportation makes it very much self-defeating. Moreover, it is pure double standard on the part of Modi government to flaunt that it takes a tough stance against illegal immigration, while refusing to cooperate with the rest of the world, as they are act tough against the Indians living illegally in large number there.

The writer is professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden.