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A dangerous move

It is matter of grave concern that 40 lakh Muslims in Assam have been de-registered, mostly Bengali Muslims, who have become foreigners in their own land. This is a well-thought and deliberate but confounding move to polarize the Indian society on religious lines ahead of next year’s general elections. It can be said with great authenticity that the move, which is to identify so-called illegal migrants, is an attempt to create a vote bank for the ruling BJP. One does not know what to make of the statement of the Assam CM that nobody will be treated as a foreigner if his/her name is not in the list. Home minister Rajnath Singh too has almost expressed the similar views. If that be so, what is the purpose of such a list in the first place? Centre has compounded the issue further by proposing a bill to modify the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant citizenship to religious minorities – specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who have been residing in India for at least six years and entered the country before December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution. This is in contravention to the NRC exercise. It goes without saying that the life is becoming tougher for the Muslims in India. They are being targeted by extremist Hindus in and outside the government by every available means almost in every state. The move to divest 40 lakh Muslims of citizenship rights is, by so far, the most fearful and panic stricken exercise that has come in the way of Muslims. Assam has 35 percent population of Muslims and its Muslim population plays a significant role in shaping up the political landscape of the state. The extremist Hindus are worried that their political say gets influenced by the Muslim population. There have been attempts for the last several decades to declare a section of Assami Muslims as Bangladeshis who have settled in India illegally. There had been a violent armed campaign against Assami Muslims in the past by BODO Hindu terrorists. The rise of BJP to power in the state, last year, has armed the local Hindu extremists with the state power to go against the Muslims. Leaving out 40 lakh Muslims from the National Register of Citizens is an attempt to out-balance the Muslim influence in the region. The bias against Muslims, while doing the exercise, could be understood from the fact that the relatives of former President of India (late) Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad too have been de-registered. If the residents with such a high profile background are not spared what about the non-descriptive common Muslim. The move is likely to have international ramifications as those de-registered are being termed as Bangladeshi Muslims. That, in all probabilities, would invite the attention of Bangladesh government towards the issue. Some voices of protest, through media, have already come from Bangladesh with which government of India boats of having good friendly relations. Some saner voices in India too have talked loud and clear that the move is likely to plunge the country into serious chaos. West Bengal chief minister Mumta Bannerji has warned of civil war as a consequences to leaving out Muslims from National Register of Citizens. Her party’s seven parliament members were barred from entering Assam on Thursday. There were stopped at the airport and not allowed to enter the city. They had gone there to take stock of the situation following the de-registration of four million Muslims. The Hindu extremists are now calling for similar exercise in other states to marginalize Muslims further. That makes things quite edgy and it could burst into serious trouble for the entire country. It is time that the saner political elements and civil society take a stand on the issue and force the government to stop this divisive exercise. It may help BJP in the elections but it is quite dangerous for the country and the nation.