Hopes on scraps of paper inside Assam’s twilight zone
which we will attract unwanted international attention,” said Nani Gopal Mahanta, head of the department of political science at Gauhati University. Mahanta also added that this situation would ultimately “have massive physical and political ramifications.”
“If in some pockets, the ratio of excluded to included is high, it could well reach a boiling point. At the same time, it will also impact the upcoming Panchayat elections if the ratio of excluded Muslims to Hindus is high. Then this could lead to vast polarisation, which could adversely impact the state, in future,” he added.
Of t he f our million who have been excluded from the draft NRC, 2,48,000 cases have been put on hold, including the D-voters (doubtful voters), their descendants and people whose cases are pending before the foreigners’ tribunal.
However, senior police officials also added that like Hossain, who is fighting for his sister’s release, several other detainees are also looking at their next of kin for a chance at survival. “A majority of the people in the detention centres are Muslims and are categorised DFN (declared foreign national). But their relatives are still trying to re-apply to the NRC on their behalf, so that they make it,” said a senior Assam state police official, seeking anonymity.
WORLD IS WATCHING
The Union home ministry is vociferous in its claims that no one will be deemed a “foreigner” yet. However, speaking to Mint, Union home minister Rajnath Singh stated that “after the final list is out, if people are left out, they can approach the foreigners tribunal.” But for the likes of Hossain, moving a foreigners’ tribunal is an exercise in futility. “We have no money left to get a lawyer who will fight our case. My sister is in a detention centre (Kokrajhar) and we have no way of even communicating with her,” Hossein added.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has laid down guidelines, set in stone, for detention centres. However, barring the six detention centres spread across Assam, there are no provisions to house those who will eventually be rendered “stateless.
“Detention must not be arbitrary, and any decision to detain must be based on an assessment of the individual’s particular circumstances; conditions of detention must be humane and dignified,” the UNHCR states, among a host of other guidelines that govern statelessness, asylum and detention.
However, even as Nani Gopal Mahanta, quoted above, stated that this entire exercise had the potential to sow seeds of violence in the state. Genocide Watch—an international organisation that seeks to pre-empt and prevent genocide and mass murder—has already issued an “early warning of potential geno- cide,” dubbing it as stage 7 alert. The organisation says that, “when Bengali Muslims in Assam are imprisoned in “foreigner” detention centres, the situation will move to Stage Eight: Persecution, the stage immediately preceding full genocide.”
Meanwhile, Shahin Ahmed remains hopeful. Ahmed, who drives a cab in Silchar town in the southern district of Cachar, had managed to dig out the passport of his grandfather, issued in the 1950s.
He also managed to produce documents showing ownership of ancestral properties. On the strength of these documents, eight in his extended family, including his parents, have been recognised as Indian citizens, but three have been excluded from the final draft. These are his younger brothers aged 13-18 years, all born in Silchar.
He had submitted birth certificates issued by the local civic authorities in support of his brothers’ applications, but it appears that the documents have not been held as authentic, he says.
Hope has been reduced to scraps of paper in Assam’s twilight zone.
Aniek Paul contributed to this story.