Rights

Newly-Convened Alliance Underscores Potential Impact of CAA-NRC on Dalits, Adivasis

The Alliance against CAA-NRC has also organised nation-wide demonstrations on Rohith Vemula's death anniversary on January 17, 2020.

New Delhi: “The Modi government has perpetuated exclusion as an ideology; Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are a part of the same agenda,” said Anil Chamadia, convenor of the newly-formed Alliance Against CAA-NRC-NPR, which has been contending that the controversial enumeration of citizens may impact Dalits, Adivasis, and OBCs as much as Muslims.

At a press briefing in the national capital, Chamadia announced that the Alliance had organised nation-wide demonstrations against CAA-NRC on the death anniversary of the Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula on January 17, 2020.

“We understand that Rohith Vemula’s forced suicide was a clear case of institutional murder. We have seen how across campuses of India, Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, women, and minorities have been insecure ever since the Modi government came to power six years ago. Today, if CAA-NRC is implemented, people of all marginalised communities will be filled with such insecurities,” he said.

Sonajharia Minz, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the CAA-NRC and the National Population Register (NPR) violate the constitutional doctrine of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and that such laws can “emerge only out of Manuwadi mindset”. Manuwadi is a common term to describe people who are influenced by the ancient Hindu text Manusmriti that standardised the discriminatory caste system based on varnasrama dharma.

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Delhi University professor N. Sukumar pointed out that Dalits, Adivasis, and the poor will be impacted the most by the CAA-NRC.

“The government of India is talking about religious persecution that minorities in our neighbouring countries are facing. But it doesn’t care about crores of Dalits and Adivasis who may not possess even the basic documents to prove their citizenship. Are you trying to push them into detention centres? Are you going to make them stateless?” he asked.

He further asked what would happen to beggars, ragpickers, and migrant labourers who did not have documents to prove their citizenship. “Do we expect bureaucrats to be sensitive towards them? I assure you that police and bureaucracy will only make money out of the misery of these people.”

He alleged that by asking the Adivasis, who have their own indigenous cultural practices, to prove their citizenship, the Modi government intends to impose a Hindu religious identity on them to advance its Hindutva cultural discourse.

S.R. Darapuri, a former IPS officer who was recently arrested for protesting against CAA-NRC in Lucknow, said that the NRC process in Assam shows that a lot of Dalits and Adivasis, who could not show their documents, were left out of the citizen rolls.

“The Rajvanshi community was impacted a lot in Assam. In West Bengal, Rajvashis are categorised as scheduled castes will also face similar consequences if NRC happens in the state,” he said.

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“The Forest Rights Act was implemented to grant land rights to Adivasis but it remains one of the most poorly implemented Acts in most states. It has become an instrument in the hands of the government to take away land from Adivasis. If an Act like it can be misused, then CAA-NRC, which is meant to identify illegal immigrants, will spell disaster on the Adivasis and Dalits,” he said.

He added that although the government has argued that the CAA is an Act to give citizenship not take it away, by excluding Muslims it may snatch the legitimate rights of Indian Muslims. He said that the CAA-NRC-NPR combine could strip lakhs of genuine citizens of their voting rights. “The moment you are categorised as ‘doubtful citizen’, you lose your voting rights. This can have grave political and social implications,” the former police officer said.

The National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) chairman Ashok Bharti slammed the Union government for putting the onus on citizens to prove their citizenship. “When the government of India did not give any citizenship documents to Indians ever, how can they ask for it,” he said.

“Ever since the Modi government came to power, it has abandoned policies and politics based on consensus,” he added.

“You say CAA proves that India cares about minorities of Pakistan. But it does not care a hoot about the persecution minorities of India will face because of NRC or CAA. Let us assume that there may be around 5 lakhs illegal immigrants in India but then why are you punishing 130 crore people of India to identify them. NRC will become a punishment for all Indians,” the NACDOR chairman said.

The Alliance said that the NRC conducted by the Modi government, which has a track record of anti-Dalit and anti-adivasi decisions, may result in “large-scale exclusions for the want of documents.”

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“BPL category mainly constitutes of socially deprived sections of society coming from Dalit, OBC and tribal communities. Owing to poverty, illiteracy, nature of livelihood, large population under these categories may not produce documents of residential proofs, property date and place of birth of their parents etc,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“These exclusions will have direct implications on reservation benefits and other protective policies and laws against social discrimination.”

“NPR-NRC drive is, in effect, basically aimed at permanently stripping the voting and reservation rights” of a large population of SC/ST/OBCs,” it said in the statement. It demanded that the Union government immediately repeal the controversial CAA and can the proposed NPR-NRC.