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Politics of Citizenship

The Central government dragging its feet on formulation of the rules of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and

Politics of Citizenship

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  4 Feb 2021 6:12 AM GMT

The Central government dragging its feet on formulation of the rules of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and compiling a pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) is reflection of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s apprehension over the two issues affecting its electoral prospects in poll-bound Assam and West Bengal. The government also finds itself between the Devil and the deep blue sea in respect of the updated NRC in Assam and is yet to notify the updated list. The government has informed the parliament that CAA rules were still being framed, and the Committees on Subordinate Legislations of both the Houses have approved extension. The Lok Sabha Committee has approved extension till April 9 while the Committee in the Rajya Sabha has set the deadline of July 9 for framing the CAA rules. The CAA came into force on January 10, 2020 but the Act cannot be implemented without the rules. Revival of anti-CAA movement in Assam has made the ruling BJP wary that if it gathers steam as in pre-COVID days then the party's poll strategy of showcasing the welfare schemes of targeting cross sections of beneficiaries as governance success story to woo the electors may go haywire. Delaying the implementation of the amended citizenship Act will help the spin doctors of the ruling party to strategize the political messaging among electors that the CAA is not going to be implemented so soon and is not an issue for this Assembly polls. In West Bengal, however, keeping the issue of the CAA politically alive is critical for the BJP to garner support of East Bengal refugees. This explains the BJP national leaders in their public rallies reiterating that the CAA would be implemented soon assuring that rules are being formulated. In Assam, however, the party is focusing more on development plank and its national leaders are tactfully avoiding dwelling on the CAA and the NRC in their speeches. The All Assam Students' Union and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad the two influential organizations are trying to revive the anti-CAA movement and the new regional parties – Asom Jatiya Parishad, Raijor Dal hope to garner electoral support if it gathers steam and snowballs into a larger movement. The grand alliance of the Congress, All India United Democratic Front and the Left parties are also trying to revive the anti-CAA agitation in Assam but the extension of deadline for framing the rules may make it difficult task for them to make it a major poll plank. The Central government not notifying the updated NRC list also speaks volume about the ruling party dithering on the issue due to exclusion of 19.06 applicants, a large section of them being Hindu Bengalis of erstwhile East Bengal origin who fled persecution in erstwhile East Pakistan and present Bangladesh. The BJP hoped to woo Bengali Hindus, excluded from NRC with the promise of implementing the CAA but balancing the promise of the CAA and updating the NRC to simultaneously retain the support of Assamese and Bengali voters has become a tough row to hoe for the ruling party. The objective of detecting illegal Bangladeshi migrants by way of updating the NRC in Assam has remained unfulfilled even after incurring huge expenditure of over Rs 1,600 crore from the State exchequer in the gigantic exercise. Preparation of a correct and error-free NRC is an obligation of the Central and the State governments which they cannot abdicate. The undue delay in notifying the updated list runs the risk of rendering the entire NRC exercise and expenditure a colossal waste of time and taxpayers' money. The Central government has also reiterated that no decision to compile nationwide NRC has yet been taken. While the BJP has been aggressively pushing the campaign around the CAA in West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress has been campaigning against both the CAA and the NRC and is citing the exclusion of over 19 lakh NRC applicants in Assam. The TMC campaign gathered steam which has compelled the BJP to stop pushing for the pan-India NRC. It is the implementation of the core clauses of the Assam Accord which has become a casualty of such electoral politics over determination of Indian citizenship. Neither Delhi nor Dispur is yet to examine the report of the High Level Committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. Ironically, it was the Central government which constituted the committee. The party which came to power harping on the slogans of jati, mati, bheti is now reneging on core clauses of detection of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and providing constitutional safeguards to indigenous people in accordance with the historic accord. The existential threat to language, culture, and heritage that grips Assamese and other indigenous people due to unabated influx of migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan and present Bangladesh is too real to be wished away by electoral gimmick.

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