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Monday, September 30, 2019

Bangladesh worry thaws on NRC

A protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Assam in January 2019. Photo: AFP
Saleem Samad
The good news over which many heaved a sigh of relief came when Indian prime minister Narendra Modi assured his Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, that Assam’s National Registration of Citizens (NRC) in India would have no impact on Bangladesh and urged her not to be worried about it.
In the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at New York, Modi gave his assurance after Hasina raised the NRC issue saying that it was a matter of great concern for Bangladesh.
This conclusive statement came at the time when the Indian leadership was in deep embarrassment after a series of hiccups experienced by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government after the publication of the NRC list.
During the parliamentary (Lok Sabha) elections in May, the BJP extended political support to the upgrading of Assam’s National Register of Citizens, a Supreme Court-monitored process to identify undocumented migrants from Bangladesh living in the state.
It was a disaster as most of the illegal migrants according to the list published were Hindus, nearly three-fourths and very few Muslims allegedly from Bangladesh. Even Kargil war veterans and others were unfortunately de-listed as Indian nationals.
Shoaib Daniyal in his in-depth story published in reveals several blunders in the de-listing of Indian nationals which have caused displeasure within the ruling BJP.
Weeks before the release of the final list in August, the BJP expressed severe displeasure with the NRC. BJP-run state and central governments even tried to delay publication. The BJP realized that the bill was not a solution for Bangali Hindus left out of the NRC.
Only recently, the BJP went so far as to declare that it was rejecting the NRC entirely. The Citizenship Amendment Bill is on a head-on collision course with the NRC, which will instead hinder Bangladeshi Hindus become Indian citizens, writes Daniyal.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill shows the actual process of making claims under the Bill is so complicated and riddled with contradictions that it would have no real impact on the citizenship prospects of Bangali Hindus left out of the NRC.
Large-scale exclusion of Hindus will cause collateral damage politically to the BJP, a party that has a Hindu identity. For damage control, the BJP has renewed its push to amend India’s citizenship law in order to explicitly favor non-Muslim migrants from neighboring countries, writes
Most of the criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Bill introduced by the Modi government has centered around the question of religious discrimination.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill introduced in 2016 would violate India’s secular character since it expressly identifies Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan as being eligible for citizenship even if they entered the country illegally. Obviously, this list leaves out Muslims.
Critics from Indian civil society as well as the political opposition have opposed the Bill on the ground that it would violate India’s secular character.

First published in the Bangla Tribune online edition, 30 September 2019

Saleem Samad, is a journalist, media rights defender, also recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. Twitter @saleemsamad; Email:

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