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.”


France grapples with high domestic violence rate

Updated 22 November 2019

France grapples with high domestic violence rate

  • EU studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers
  • By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death

LES MUREAUX: Sylvia. Dalila. Aminata. Céline. Julie. Their names are plastered on buildings and headlines across France, calling attention to their shared fate: Each was killed, allegedly by a current or former partner this year.
More than 130 women have died from domestic violence this year alone in France, according to activists who track the deaths.
European Union studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers. And frustrated activists have drawn national attention to a problem President Emmanuel Macron has called “France’s shame.”
Under cover of night, activists have glued posters with the names of the dead and calls to action to French city walls. “Complaints ignored, women killed,” read the black block letters on one such sign.
By the hundreds, women have walked silently through city streets after each new death.
Two years after Macron made a campaign pledge to tackle the problem, the government has begun to act.
A Justice Ministry report released earlier this month acknowledged authorities’ systematic failure to intervene to prevent domestic violence murders. On Monday, the government will announce measures that are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence, prioritizing police training and formally recognizing “psychological violence” as a form of domestic violence.
Women are not the only victims of domestic violence, but French officials say they make up the vast majority.
Lawyers and victims’ advocates say women are too often disbelieved or turned away by law enforcement. But they’re encouraged by the new national conversation, which they say marks a departure from decades of denial.
“In France, we always have the impression that we are perfect,” feminist activist Caroline de Haas told The Associated Press.
A 2014 EU survey of 42,000 women across all 28 member states found that 26% of French women respondents said they been abused by a partner since age 15, either physically or sexually.
That’s below the global average of 30%, according to UN Women. But it’s 4 percentage points above the EU average and the sixth highest among EU countries.
Half that number reported experiencing such abuse in Spain, which implemented a series of legal and educational measures in 2004 that slashed its domestic violence rates.
Conversations about domestic violence have also ratcheted up in neighboring Germany, where activists are demanding the term “femicide” be used to describe such killings.
In France, victims and advocates say government action is overdue — and that more training is needed for police who are often ill-prepared to protect women in danger.
Police inaction made national headlines in France after Macron visited a hotline call center in September and listened in on a call with a 57-year-old woman whose husband had threatened to kill her. He heard a police officer on the other end tell the woman he couldn’t help her.
The hotline operator told Macron that such responses weren’t unusual.
Police officers across Europe often dismiss domestic violence as a private matter and fail to intervene at crucial moments, an EU study found this year.
But France is particularly bad, said EU researcher Albin Dearing, who led a study this year that examined domestic violence in seven European countries, including France.
“When it comes to violence against women, it showed actually that police do very little to protect women who turn to them for protection,” he said.
It can take between three weeks and two months for authorities to act on a complaint, leaving the victim “in a very fragile situation,” according to Frederique Martz, who runs anti-domestic violence organization Women Safe.
The Justice Ministry report this month found that 41% of “conjugal homicide” victims studied had previously reported incidents of domestic violence, and 80% of complaints sent to prosecutors went uninvestigated.
“Our system doesn’t work to protect women,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told French TV channel LCI after another French woman was allegedly killed by her husband in Alsace last week.
Many officers respond appropriately to reports of domestic violence, according to Maj. Fabienne Boulard of the national police.
Those who don’t — the ones who react “clumsily” or ask the wrong questions — usually don’t mean harm, she added; they just don’t recognize domestic violence or know how to intervene.
This is particularly true when women receive threats but not yet physical blows, victims say.
Officers “absorb this violence into the category of violence between a couple that is going through a difficult period,” said one woman whose ex-husband repeatedly threatened her and their children. She spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
The woman divorced him after years of what she describes as psychological abuse that left her “terrified to cross him.” His threats only grew worse from there, she said.
She filed multiple complaints, but she said police officers suggested she didn’t seem like a victim or and wasn’t able to prove she was in danger.
Earlier this month, Boulard, the police major, led the first supplementary training on domestic violence for police in the Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. She emphasized to the eight officers there that among victims, “shame is an extremely strong feeling.”
Participants traded stories of issues they had encountered: the surge in complaints on Sundays, the woman who retracts her complaint, the partner who insists everything is fine.
“We can’t do anything,” one female police officer complained.
Boulard told The AP that the three-hour session aimed to help officers understand the pressures victims face and “why the victim is not what they imagined, why sometimes they don’t correspond with the criteria they expect to see.”
Trainings like Boulard’s take place in some parts of France, but regional authorities can decide whether to hold them. Activists hope they’ll become routine.
“A year or two ago, no one used the word ‘femicide’ apart from feminist organizations,” Haas said. “There is very much a change in public consciousness.”