Yesterday, the Times of India reported that the Karnataka government would be putting the NRC “on the back burner”. Instead, they will create a database of undocumented immigrants and foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas.
While it is a relief to hear that the NRC will not be implemented immediately, it seems as though the citizen database is essentially the first step towards the NRC.
According to an officer with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office, there are only about 800 foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas. If they make up just 800 out of the 6.4 Crore residents of Karnataka, it seems like a waste of resources to track them down. The state has other pressing issues, such as the floods in coastal Karnataka, the agrarian crisis, and the poor infrastructure throughout the state.
However, the BJP government at the centre, and Amit Shah, in particular, have been vocal about an all-India implementation of the NRC. So despite the apparent backtracking of the Karnataka government, they are still going ahead with the preparation of detention centers in Nelamangala taluk, Karnataka. The detention centre will be housed in an old social welfare department hostel.
If the argument for implementing NRC in Karnataka is that there is economic scarcity, then we should be asking the government to implement policies to revive the economy, which is undergoing a major, visible recession. There is no other sensible argument in favour of the NRC. Every other argument is biased against members of minority communities.
The motivation behind implementing the NRC seems to be identifying a scapegoat for all the problems of the state. In other words, it’s simply a distraction, taking away attention from the fact that the government is doing barely anything to address the problems in the state. It’s unclear as to how creating enmity between communities will help us grow rather than bring us down.
Apart from the dubious motivations behind the NRC, there is no set plan as to what will happen to the people who are declared stateless. In order to deport Bangladeshi immigrants, India needs to draw up a deportation agreement with Bangladesh. As of now, India doesn’t have a reparation treaty with Bangladesh
Also read: National Register of Citizens: How the BJP is turning regional conflicts into national campaigns of hate.
With Amit Shah’s promise that Non-Muslim refugees will be given citizenship, we need to be suspicious of what the NRC will actually accomplish. At the moment it looks like it is just a political move designed to divide India along communal lines. Muslim workers who are legitimate citizens of India are worried that the documents they have will not be enough to protect them from being detained. Some have lost their identity papers in floods in Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and elsewhere.
News18 reported that close to 4 Lakh people in Assam have given missed calls to the BJP in order to join the party. This is because they feel that membership in the BJP will protect them during the NRC process.
The NRC is creating an environment of fear and suspicion. People are either worried that immigrants are taking away jobs – a worry that is entirely unsupported by data – or that they themselves will be declared non-citizens. It is hard to see how any of this is beneficial to the country or the state.
Similarly, the exercise in creating a list of undocumented immigrants and foreign nationals will not yield any concrete benefits whatsoever. It is political rhetoric designed to distract from the real problems that the government should be working on.