We should examine why such strong protests have broken out across India and are being covered across the world. The government says that there is confusion in the minds of the protesters and a lack of knowledge about its legislation and proposed actions on citizenship. But the fact is that we are seeing wider and more passionate resistance to the government in public than at any time since 2014. The question is why.
To my mind, it is incorrect for the government to believe that the protesters do not know what they are protesting against. And it is also incorrect to believe that the protestors should not fear what the government is currently doing and what it has announced for the future. A little background may be useful here. In 2017, the Assam government submitted an affidavit in Gauhati High Court. It concerned the extension of the two-year contracts of those advocates who were in charge of the Foreigners Tribunals in that state.
The document submitted by the government showed that it was refusing to extend the contract of those members who were not declaring too many people as foreigners. The contract of Kartik C Ray, who declared 1.32% of the 380 people whose documents he examined to determine citizenship, “may be terminated”, the government of Assam said. In the appraisal, under the heading “general views of the government upon the Member”, Ray's performance was marked “not satisfactory” and under the heading “whether may be considered for further retention or may be terminated” the government said “may be terminated".
Similarly, the contracts of the following members were terminated with the verdict "not satisfactory, may be terminated": Dilip Kumar Barman (4.33% of 485 people), Bhaba Hazarika (2.43% of 494 people), Dwijen Dutta (1.46% out of 548 people), Kamaluddin Ahmed Choudhary (1.06% out of 472), Nilay Kanti Ghose (0.82% out of 485), Navanita Mitra (2.23% out of 263) and Kulendra Talukdar (7.67% out of 326).
So, what is the pattern?
To see that we must examine which individual’s contracts were extended. These included Narayan Kumar Nath (34.57% out of 460 people declared foreigner), about whom the general view of the government was “good” and the recommendation was that he “may be retained.” Then there are Abhijit Das (39.05% out of 443, good, may be retained), Hemanta Mahanta (41.67% out of 574, “need to improve”, and “may be retained with warning”), Naba Kr Barua (74.77% out of 321, "good", "may be retained"), Dhiraj Kr Saikia (41.16% out of 345, "good", "may be retained"), Junmoni Borah (15.33 out of 300, "good", "may be retained"), Kalpana Baruah (26.91 out of 249, "need to improve", "may be retained with warning"), Ramakanta Khaklary (15.65 out of 626, "good", "may be retained"), Ajay Phukan (19.38 out of 239, "good", "may be retained") and Nibedita Tamulinath (58.47% out of 691, "good", "may be retained").
I do not have to explain the pattern here because it is obvious. What has happened is that, in Assam, contract workers are being encouraged and rewarded to declare people foreigners. Those contract workers who are not doing what the government wants are being sacked.
Then, people declared as foreigners are jailed. When the National Human Rights Commission sent a team to examine the condition of these people, they found that families were separated permanently, with women and children living in a different jail from the men. Many had gone mad and they were being housed in the same jails as convicts.
India is doing this to its own people and doing so under a reversal of the burden of proof. In the civilised world, the government has to prove that an individual has committed a crime. In India, the individual must prove that she must not be jailed. This is what the National Register of Citizens, which Amit Shah will implement across the country, is all about and this is how it is being executed.
Now let us turn to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). What does it do? It will jail Muslims who are accused of being foreigners and cannot prove that they are Indians to the satisfaction of the BJP government. The people of all other religions are exempt from proving this because the CAA says that even if they entered India illegally before December 2014, they will be given fast track citizenship. Only Muslims will have to prove their credentials.
Thus, the NRC is aimed at rounding up and permanently jailing Indian Muslims who cannot produce the documents to satisfy a government, which punishes those officials who do not declare maximum number of Muslims foreigners. It is for this reason that we see so many Indian Muslims protesting these laws and it is for this reason that so many non-Muslims cannot stand by and watch what is happening in their country.
Lastly, it is for this reason that the foreign minister of India shamefully ran away this week, cancelling his appointment with a US Congressional delegation which was aware of what India is doing to its own people. He knew that he would not be able to defend his actions and that of our government because they cannot be defended.