Gist of EPW September Week 2, 2019

The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective.

 

1. Quandary of National Register of Citizens

Context

  • The publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam has begun to stir up the politics in the state as different social forces are responding to its outcomes.

What is National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam?

Please read about it here:

Background

  • In 2005, a tripartite meeting was held between the Centre, Assam government and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). It was chaired by then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During the meeting, it was decided that the NRC would be updated for Assam.
  • In June 2010, the Assam government started two pilot projects to update the NRC in two blocks namely Kamrup and Barpeta districts. The projects were halted following violence.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court set a deadline to update and publish a revised National Register of Citizens. This deadline was extended over the years, however, unlike in the past the work to update the NRC actually began in Assam.
  • In 2015, NRC application forms were distributed. Applications stopped getting accepted on August 31, 2015 and process of verifying the applications began on September 1, 2015.
  • NRC updation was carried out under The Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord.

How is verification carried out?

  • The process of verification involved house-to-house field verification, determination of authenticity of documents, family tree investigations in order to rule out bogus claims of parenthood and linkages and separate hearings for married women.

Impact of exclusion

  • Pushing lakhs of individuals into the drudgery of appeals to foreigners’ tribunals and courts, putting them in detention centres.
  • Those excluded individuals are considered as secondary citizens or with a condition of statelessness. They are bound to bring extreme suffering to the people, the majority of whom are already living a marginalised existence.
  • However, the cynical calculations and the agenda of the ruling party leave little scope for empathy for this suffering.
  • An exercise like the NRC, with its fundamental premises rooted in the binary of outsiders/insiders, cut-off dates, and primordial claims over land, threatens to aggravate the already existing social tensions.

What next for those who are left out?

  • Those whose names have been left out of the NRC Assam, can once again appeal to have their case reconsidered.
  • Those left out are not yet being labelled as “foreigners” or being sent to detention centres. However, only those applicants who had submitted their applications in 2015 will be considered.

Critics about the procedure

  • Discriminatory procedures, criteria, and requirements followed in the exercise have aided exclusionary logic.
    • Differential requirements of documents from different groups have produced a built-in bias in the process
  • At least in the context of the historical peculiarities of Assam a logical case—howsoever problematic on moral grounds—can be made.
  • The only possible logic could be the cynical one of targeting particular communities by deliberately creating a mist of doubt.
  • There have already been reports of rumours and speculations about the nationwide implementation of the NRC and the institution of detention centres instilling panic and insecurities.
  • Political Parties may also seek specific communal targeting to suit its objectives, the logic of such demands could spiral across varied horizontal and vertical axes and, thus, produce constant strife in a diverse and unequal country like India.

Conclusion

  • Migration has been a historical fact of human civilisation as such and its prevalence has been increasing manifold in our times for various reasons.
  • Thus idea of citizenship and the corresponding rights needs to be human-centric rather than state-centric.
  • Declaring a section of humanity to be devoid of the rights by invoking a primordial conception of identity would reduce India to being an ethnic democracy at best and a theocracy (where a system of government in which priests’ rule in the name of God or a god) at worst.

For more EPW articles, read “Gist of EPW”

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