Indian government creating a Rohingya kind of crisis in Assam, say analysts

People wait to check their names on the draft list at the National Register of Citizens (NRC) center at a village in Nagaon district, Assam state. Four million people were not included in the draft list which was published Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 01 August 2018

Indian government creating a Rohingya kind of crisis in Assam, say analysts

  • The ruling BJP sees electoral gains in this communal polarization
  • Muslims are no doubt the target of this exercise, say victims

NEW DELHI: Masuma Begum has been in a state of shock since her name failed to appear in the National Register of Citizenship or NRC, a draft that the northeastern state of Assam is preparing to enlist “genuine” Indian citizens.

The 25-year-old Begum, a trainee teacher in Guwahati, Assam’s biggest city, is the only one in her family of six whose name is not mentioned in the new citizenship draft published on July 30.

Ajmal Haque, 51, a resident of Chhaygaon in Kamrup district, and an Indian Army officer who retired after 30 years of service, also finds his name and those of his two children missing from the NRC list. He feels sad. “Despite my serving India for so long, it does not recognize me and my family as Indian citizens,” Haque told Arab News.

There are four million people whose names have not been included in the draft list that was published on Monday.

Out of the 32.9 million population of the border state of Assam, 28.9 million names were included in the final draft of the NRC.

The NRC is the by-product of the Assam Accord of 1985 that ended six-year-old violent agitation to expel illegal immigrants from the state.

The NRC stipulated that all immigrants who have entered Assam on or after March 25, 1971, were to be identified and deported.

However, no progress was made on this front and the matter reached the Supreme Court of India in 2015. It ordered that the NRC of 1951 should be updated so as to identify genuine citizens.

In the meanwhile, for the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which has long been demanding the identification of illegal Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam, the NRC came, according to analysts, as a political opportunity to further consolidate its Hindu votes in Assam, where they came to power for the first time after playing the majority card.

“I feel politics has come into play in the preparations of the NRC list. I feel some names are deliberately being left out for political reasons,” said Begum, who said her family was also part of the first NRC in 1951. “Muslims are no doubt the target of this exercise,” she added.

Suspicion on this front become all the more pronounced with the BJP’s attempt to introduce an amendment to the 1955 Citizenship Act, thereby giving Indian citizenship to all non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries, except Nepal.

India’s Interior Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday: “Even if someone didn’t find their names in the final NRC, they can go to the foreigners’ tribunals. All individuals will be given a fair chance.”

But Haque questioned the move by the government: “The whole process is faulty and I feel humiliated that despite serving the country for three decades, I have to prove my citizenship and my name does not feature in the NRC list.”

The junior commissioned officer raises doubts about the fairness of the whole process. “I see a clear political agenda in the targeting of the Bengali Muslims of Assam. By targeting the Muslims, the Indian government is creating a Rohingya kind of situation in Assam. You first disenfranchise them and then make them refugees in their own homeland.”

Abdul Haq Azad, an Assam-based researcher, said the Muslims of Assam saw the NRC as a panacea from all sorts of persecution, harassment and discrimination in the name of illegal immigrants, “but the government has made it another tool for persecuting the Muslims through its range of exclusionary provisions.”

“The current situation in Assam reminds one of the conditions of Rohingyas in Myanmar in the 1980s,” said Azad.

Human rights activist Suhas Chakma said: “The very premise of the NRC is faulty. How will you prove someone is an original inhabitant of the land or not?”

In the meanwhile, the NRC second draft has kicked up a political storm in India with the Upper House of Parliament seeing a heated debate between the ruling party and the opposition.

The opposition feels the government should adopt a humanitarian stance on this issue and should not precipitate a crisis in the country.

Political analysts, however, believe that “the BJP sees electoral gains in this communal polarization.”

Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

International and local electoral observers arrive to attend briefing by the chairman of the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about preparations for the rescheduled general elections in Abuja, on February 20, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019

Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

  • Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement

ABUJA: Nigerians vote for a new president on Saturday after a week-long delay that has raised political tempers, sparked conspiracy claims and stoked fears of violence.
Some 120,000 polling stations were due to open at 0700 GMT, from megacity Lagos and the oil hub Port Harcourt in the south, to ancient Kano in the north and the country’s rural heartlands.
Results are expected from early next week, with the winner gaining control of Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer for four years.
In a crowded field of 73 presidential hopefuls, the two frontrunners — incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, 76, and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72 — are expected to vote in their home towns.
Electors are also choosing 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators from a choice of 6,500 candidates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way.
That angered voters who had already traveled to their home towns and villages to participate, and saw the main parties accuse the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result.
Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu has given an indication of the scale of the task, announcing that more than 825,000 temporary staff had been drafted in to help conduct the vote.
More than 80,000 vehicles and nearly 1,000 boats have been hired to transport ballot papers, results and other materials to and from polling units.
“I want to reassure you that elections will be held on Saturday,” he said on Thursday. “There won’t be another postponement.”

The logistical fine-tuning, however, has been overshadowed by comments from Buhari that he had ordered security forces to be “ruthless” with vote-riggers and ballot-box snatchers.
Critics said his warning was a “license to kill” to the police and the military, while Abubakar said his comments were not fitting for an elected head of state.
Buhari has since sought to reassure voters not to be afraid, promising an “atmosphere of openness and peace, devoid of fear from threat or intimidation.”
Analysts SBM Intelligence say 233 people were killed in 67 incidents of election-related violence from last October to Friday — an average of two people per day.
The election campaign has come against a backdrop of wider violence from Boko Haram Islamists and criminal gangs in the north that have killed more than 200 people this month alone.
That could affect participation in some affected areas and combine with voter apathy from last weekend’s postponement to affect turnout, according to analysts.
Just over 84 million people were registered to vote but only 72.7 million (86 percent) of those will be allowed to vote, as they have picked up their voter identity cards.

In 2015, former military ruler Buhari became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president, beating Goodluck Jonathan by 2.5 million votes.
Buhari has again vowed to be tough on insecurity and corruption, and wants to complete much-needed road and rail infrastructure projects, as well as social mobility schemes.
Abubakar is a pro-business free marketeer whose main pledges have been to privatise giant state-run companies and float the embattled naira currency.
Nigerian elections have previously been characterised by voting along ethnic and religious lines.
But with Buhari and Abubakar both northern Muslims, that could split the northern vote, making southern states a key battleground.
Opponents have accused Buhari of trying to manipulate the judiciary that would rule on any dispute about the results, after he suspended the country’s chief justice this month.
Nigeria’s Business Day newspaper on Friday said whoever wins has to repair a “broken economy” limping back from recession, and hit by high unemployment, inflation and weak growth.
Some 87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty, with the gulf between haves and have-nots widening.