Nationwide NRC would be akin to cultural, religious, ethnic cleansing

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The menace of NRC is hovering over the Indian populace where the Indian media is doing the bidding of the establishment. Apart from a few portals, there is hardly any channel that is discussing NRC and its disastrous implications in detail. The Indian people need to understand that there is more to NRC than what meets the eye.

It is being discussed, and rightly so, that it will jeopardize the citizenship of millions of Indians who would fail to provide relevant documents to prove that they are not illegal immigrants. Apart from becoming a basis for religious discrimination when combined with CAA, NRC will also provide a solid foundation for racial and ethnic discrimination against nomadic and de-notified tribes.

When India was under colonial rule of the British Empire, they passed a Criminal Tribe Act in 1871 that branded the whole tribes and communities of nomads as criminals. For decades, they faced persecution and humiliation despite serving in the Indian Freedom Struggle. In 1952, i.e. post-Independence, Indian government repealed that Act and introduced Habitual Offenders Act in 1952. This Act gave the law enforcement agencies the power to enhance the punishment of a perpetrator who has been involved in criminal activities before.

This Act is regularly used against nomadic and de-notified tribes when policemen jail and prosecute them despite having no substantial evidence against them. Many human rights agencies have appealed to the Indian government to repeal Habitual Offenders Act too. People belonging to this tribe do not have ration card, birth certificate, aadhar card or any other administrative record of their existence on paper. Therefore, they do not avail of any welfare schemes or policies designed for weaker sections of the society. As per Idate Commission Report, Nomadic and De-notified Tribes constitute around 10% of the Indian population which makes up about 13 crore people.If NRC is implemented throughout the country, this sizable chunk of Indian population will end up in a condition worse than they already are in. They would either be jailed or put in detention centres.

Mittal Patel, a young journalism student in the early 2000s, came across the nomadic and de-notified tribes while working on a project on sugarcane agricultural workers. She learned that the hundreds of thousands of nomadic tribals are usually not granted basic rights and amenities as Indian citizens because they have no administrative record on paper. After numerous failed attempts of garnering attention of government authorities towards their plight, she founded VSSM in 2005 in order to get these tribes their rights and due entitlement. VSSM helps members of these tribes to first get proper citizenry documents like ration cards, birth certificates etc to help them avail of the government welfare schemes. Secondly, in order to help them get education so that they become employable individuals, VSSM has initiated Unnati Girls’ Hostel and Shri GambhirchandOomedchand Shah Boys’ Hostel. Under SWAVLAMBAN program by the Indian government, VSSM provides them with loans so they can improve their financial conditions by starting independent business ventures. The Participatory Water Management initiative by VSSM has ensured that water levels get recharged in the areas where these tribes live.

It is essential for the government to ensure that these nomadic tribes get their basic rights and amenities otherwise it will be akin to burning down a whole forest for finding a few invasive species. It is also extremely important for the patriotic, responsible Indian citizens to support people like Mittal Patel and donate generously to NGOs like VichartaSamudaySamarthanManch and prevent this cultural, religious, ethnic cleansing from taking place.

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