India

India Is Riding the Nativist Wave to Launch the Biggest Decitizenship Drive in Human History

This is a giant step in advancing Prime Minister Nardendra Modi's vision of India as a Hindu nation.

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India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, the patron saint of pluralism, peace, and tolerance, is on the cusp of achieving a dubious distinction: It is poised to launch the biggest disenfranchisement drive in human history by stripping up to 4 million predominantly Muslim residents in Assam, an eastern province bordering Bangladesh, of their citizenship starting August 31. And as if this weren't bad enough, Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to go national with this crackdown.

This is shocking but not surprising. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, is riding the nativist wave around the world to advance his faith-cleansing agenda.

The Assam issue dates back to 1971 when Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, broke away from Pakistan with India's assistance and established itself as an independent country. Pakistani atrocities at the time caused some 10 million Bangladeshis, the vast majority Muslims, to flee to Assam and other Indian border states in what was the single largest displacement of people in the second half of the 20th century. Although around 7 million of these refugees returned to their new homeland immediately after Pakistan retreated, some stayed behind in India.

This wasn't a major problem in states such as West Bengal that, except for religion, share Bangladesh's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage. But in Assam, a remote and poor state in the mountains known for its tea estates, the presence of Bangladeshis who didn't speak the language and practiced a different religion created tensions with locals. The conflict escalated when the ruling Congress Party led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi handed voting rights—and, by extension, quasi-citizenship—to the refugees in what was considered a cynical move to expand her Muslim vote bank. Incensed, Assamese students in 1983 went on a killing spree, hacking nearly 2,000 Muslims—refugees and nationals alike—in six hours, one of the worst massacres in modern India, rivaling the pogrom on Modi's watch in his home state of Gujarat in 2002.

The Congress government, deeply spooked, signed the Assam Accords with the student union in 1985, promising to update the defunct 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC). This meant that all the 30 million-plus Assamese residents, equivalent to the population of Canada, were required to prove that their ancestors had lived in Assam from before 1971 or face not just being purged from the voter rolls, but the country. Since Assam was granted an exemption from the rest of India's birthright citizenship, millions of people who were born in Assam and have known no other country could be rendered stateless.

Creating the register is a herculean exercise in a state (and country) with a high illiteracy rate and where many people don't know their birth dates, let alone keep copious ancestry records. That, combined with the fact that the Congress Party had no political incentive to ensure compliance, meant that the project didn't make much headway until the Supreme Court got aggressively involved.

Remarkably, the court didn't see its role as protecting due process rights, in order to stop individuals from being unfairly disenfranchised, but as throwing out as many alleged foreigners as possible. A 2005 ruling scrapping a law that it said constrained the Indian government too much in expelling foreigners actually quoted the U.S. Supreme Court's notorious and largely discarded 1889 Chinese Exclusion decision that declared "the highest duty of a nation" is to "give security against foreign aggression and encroachment" including from "vast hordes" of foreigners "crowding in upon us." (Those who doubt America's effect on the world's moral compass should ponder that a U.S. Supreme Court decision was informing the Indian Supreme Court a century and a quarter later!) But impatient with the slow progress, in 2014, India's Supreme Court, whose chief justice is an Assamese who grew up in the heyday of anti-foreigner agitation and shares its goals, established a tentative deadline and a complicated process for completing the NRC.

One of the most chilling aspects of the NRC is that it requires individuals to prove they are citizens rather than the government to prove they are not, effectively scrapping the presumption of innocence even though rendering someone stateless means that they have no home nor hearth. It's a fate arguably worse than death.

But the court's aggressive timetable was manna from heaven for Modi who got elected that same year. Modi latched on to NRC as a campaign issue, promising to kick Bangladeshis, most of whom are Muslim, out of Assam. "They should be prepared with their bags packed," he told the gathered Hindu throngs at election rallies. Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah, echoing Trump's harsh anti-Mexican language, recently compared Bangladeshis to "termites" and "infiltrators."

The Assam government, which is controlled by Modi's party, finally released the NRC last year and set off a wave of panic because a whopping 4 million—13 percent of the state's population—Assamese residents didn't make it on the list. But the NRC is so riddled with errors thanks to the omnipresent incompetence of Indian authorities that even the Modi government isn't eager to see it implemented in its current form. Even though the vast majority of those excluded are Muslim, there were more Hindus left out than it had expected. The court has given the government until the end of this month to release a final, cleaned up list.

What will happen to those who still don't make the cut?

The Modi government is trying to pass a bill that would hand automatic citizenship to all Hindu, Buddhist, Parsee, and Christian migrants from neighboring countries—everyone, that is, except for Muslims. Muslims, the only ones left if the bill goes through, will have to appear before foreign tribunals for a final determination.

The tribunals are notorious for holding sham trials where officers who fail to convict the vast majority of petitioners are summarily fired. A Vice News investigation found that these kangaroo courts have no unified process to adjudicate petitions. Each tribunal makes up its own evidentiary rules, which are hard to fathom for petitioners, especially the poor ones who can't afford lawyers. Muslims especially have no chance of prevailing, given that nine of 10 were branded as foreigners in the sample of tribunals Vice investigated. One tribunal even convicted a veteran officer who had served in the Indian army for 30 years and had long ancestral roots in the state because he happened to be Muslim. Widespread outrage secured his release, but those who aren't so lucky are sent away to detention camps indefinitely because Bangladesh refuses to take them, especially if they weren't even born on its soil. Unsurprisingly, scores of people who didn't find their names on the NRC have committed suicide.

But that isn't stopping Modi from allowing Assam to add 200 new tribunals to the existing 100 and is planning 800 more for the future. He has also authorized 10 more detention camps.

And Assam is just a pilot test given that Modi's administration has already signaled that it wants to use the NRC process to give more states Assam's tools to root out "doubtful voters" and "illegal infiltrators" from the country. This may mean requiring every one of the 1.3 billion men, women, and children in India to prove their citizenship and would dwarf what is happening elsewhere in the world.

Modi's ambitions would not have reached such epic proportions if the nativist virus hadn't been raging in the West, particularly America. If a country like America that has long regarded itself as a nation of immigrants and has relatively strong institutional checks against government abuse can snatch infants from the breasts of migrant moms, it becomes very hard to restrain the Modis of the world. "When strong democracies resort to such harsh tactics against migrants," the London-based Amal de Chickera of the Institute of Statelessness and Inclusion lamented over the phone, "what India is about to do in Assam begins to seem normal, not exceptional."

The West may have developed the current nativist contagion, but India has come down with a more virulent strain. And the consequences are going to be tragic.

This column originally appeared in The Week.

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  1. Horrible news that some right-wing nut wants to make his country a uni-religious state. I can’t imagine any other country or any other religion not openly welcoming, or at least tolerating, other religions. Well, maybe a few other countries and one or two other religions.

    1. Sᴛᴀʀᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋɪɴɢ ғʀᴏᴍ ʜᴏᴍᴇ! Gʀᴇᴀᴛ ᴊᴏʙ ғᴏʀ sᴛᴜᴅᴇɴᴛs, sᴛᴀʏ-ᴀᴛ-ʜᴏᴍᴇ ᴍᴏᴍs ᴏʀ ᴀɴʏᴏɴᴇ ɴᴇᴇᴅɪɴɢ ᴀɴ ᴇxᴛʀᴀ ɪɴᴄᴏᴍᴇ… Yᴏᴜ ᴏɴʟʏ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴀ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴜᴛᴇʀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴀ ʀᴇʟɪᴀʙʟᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀɴᴇᴛ ᴄᴏɴɴᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ… Mᴀᴋᴇ $80 ʜᴏᴜʀʟʏ ᴀɴᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴛᴏ $13000 ᴀ ᴍᴏɴᴛʜ ʙʏ ғᴏʟʟᴏᴡɪɴɢ ʟɪɴᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴏᴛᴛᴏᴍ ᴀɴᴅ sɪɢɴɪɴɢ ᴜᴘ… Yᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ғɪʀsᴛ ᴄʜᴇᴄᴋ ʙʏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇɴᴅ ᴏғ ᴛʜɪs ᴡᴇᴇᴋ
      pop over to this website …….. Read More

  2. But India, along with China, are the good guys now. Just ignore those million Uyghurs behind the concentration camp curtain.

  3. If you’re not an at-least-reasonably wealthy (upper castes) Hindu, and most ideally supporting Modi… Modi wants to turn you into an illegal sub-human!

    Satan J. Trump is probably turning green with envy…

    1. Oh you’re doing your weird off meds schizophrenic religiosity thing again. How boring.

    2. And don’t the LIB Prog-Tard Pols, Pundits & Voters in America want to turn Conservative Constitutional Libertarians, Christians & Straight White Males into illegal sub-humans for simply disagreeing with much of their agenda?

  4. “Modi’s ambitions would not have reached such epic proportions if the nativist virus hadn’t been raging in the West, particularly America.”

    So fucking predictable. Lol.

    1. Jeanne Kirkpatrick was so prescient back in 1984.

      Yeah, Dalmia, sounds rough. Know what it ALSO sounds like? Not. My. Problem.

    2. So fucking predictable. Lol.

      You knew it was going to be a trainwreck going in. Shikha has to worship Ghandi as a pan-global, open borders, pluralist deity without acknowledging that was factually a nationalist and then turn around and demonize Modi as some manner of exclusionary supremacist bigot while ignoring the fact that he’s using the tools that Ghandi gave him.

  5. “If a country like America that has long regarded itself as a nation of immigrants and has relatively strong institutional checks against government abuse can snatch infants from the breasts of migrant moms, it becomes very hard to restrain the Modis of the world.”

    Oh please. Talk about false equivalence, this one takes the cake. Detaining and deporting illegal aliens in accordance with the law passed by the Congress is very different than what is happening in India. Do you really want to stick ‘little Juan’ and ‘Little Juanita’ in detention with adults who are not their family? Uh….bad idea.

    I personally felt separation was a good disincentive to illegal aliens.

    1. Burning people alive “in accordance with the law”.

      Enslaving “in accordance with the law”.

      Murdering “in accordance with the law”.

      Decapitating “in accordance with the law”.

      Torturing “in accordance with the law”.

      1. What are “things that are exactly the opposite of in accordance with the law and make you look stupid and unhinged when suggesting them” Alex?

  6. “It is poised to launch the biggest disenfranchisement drive in human history by stripping up to 4 million predominantly Muslim residents in Assam, an eastern province bordering Bangladesh, of their citizenship starting August 31.”

    This is simply unconscionable.

    The Koch / Reason solution, of course, is to encourage all 4 million of them to immigrate to the United States. By 2021 we’ll have a Democrat in the White House who will do exactly that.

    #ImmigrationAboveAll
    #VoteDemocratForOpenBorders

    1. “It is poised to launch the biggest disenfranchisement drive in human history by stripping up to 4 million predominantly Muslim residents in Assam, an eastern province bordering Bangladesh, of their citizenship starting August 31.”

      Great idea, OBL! Let them all come here at the same time & we can create a 51st state called, “Assam”….I know I for one would love mi tax dollars to pay to get them on their feet!

  7. It seems the article comes down to blaming America for not having open borders. Blaming America is one form of stupid and lazy thinking. Democrats passing as Libertarians over open boarders is also lazy thinking considering we have a welfare state.

    1. #HateAmericaFirst

  8. So, to sum up, Shikha blames a new populist President for laws and court decisions made years and decades before he assumed office, and doesn’t blame the opposition party for spending decades making illegal immigrants a voting bloc as a means to their own power

  9. Did India have open borders before Trump was elected?

    1. I could have sworn that the article itself makes reference to the mass slaughter of refugees from Bangladesh in 1985, and of the Indian government responding to this mass slaughter by effectively negating the citizenship of the refugees from Bangladesh.

      You might want to check my math on this, but I believe that 1985 was about 31 years before Trump became president.

  10. Reading the article is like having someone put a thumb in your eye repeatedly. You would have to be willfully ignorant of facts and history to believe her interpretation is the correct one. The only way for someone with normal faculties to share her point of view would be to injure themselves into mental and/or physical disability.

  11. India so who cares?

  12. I’m not sure, but MAYBE keeping the supposedly unwanted ones INSIDE your nation (where they can be a constant source of political power via scapegoating, via whipping your supporters into a frenzy against their “enemies”)… With a few showcase raids now and then… And perhaps herding them into concentration camps… MIGHT be a bit better than just killing them all. Maybe!

    What is for DAMNED sure is, while you’re doing some or all of the above, it is a WAY good way to get political support, is to TAX the illegal ones, while they get no benefits from their taxes! Turn the scapegoats into tax semi-slaves, that is…

    So Modi may “crib” some more from the USA, and tax the illegal sub-human Muslims for the net tax benefit of the Hindus…

    See “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes” (in quotes) in your Google search window will take you straight there, hit number one… AKA http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/undocumented-immigrants-and-taxes/499604/ For details about us natives mooching (Social Security) off of the taxes of the illegal sub-humans…

    1. This was Shikha’s/Reason’s aim or goal. When they start an immigration debate, if you bring up the debt and social welfare, they point out how immigrants can support, offset, and diffuse the costs.

      Maybe they don’t really care about immigrants or natives at all and they MIGHT only care about keeping the leviathan rolling forward.

      What is for DAMNED sure is that for people so concerned about diversity, race, and nation of origin, they sure do like to lump multiple continents and races of people together and discard them if they don’t agree with their ideology.

  13. Based on his rhetoric, part of me is wondering if Trump is jealous of Modi’s power.

    1. “…part of me is wondering if Trump is jealous of Modi’s power.”

      It’s a pretty good bet, yes!

    2. I don’t doubt for one moment that Shikha is.

  14. By Shikha’s reasoning, Trump leveling tariffs on the Chinese to get them to respect human rights is a great plan.

  15. “The conflict escalated when the ruling Congress Party led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi handed voting rights—and, by extension, quasi-citizenship—to the refugees in what was considered a cynical move to expand her Muslim vote bank.”

    Really? There are those who claim that the Democratic Party is similarly engaged in a cynical move to expand its Hispanic/Immigrant vote bank. Guess it’s not such an off-the-wall suspicion after all…

    “Incensed, Assamese students in 1983 went on a killing spree, hacking nearly 2,000 Muslims—refugees and nationals alike—in six hours, one of the worst massacres in modern India, rivaling the pogrom on Modi’s watch in his home state of Gujarat in 2002.”

    A little perspective here please! How can one possibly compare genicidal slaughter to the horrors that non-whites face in the United States every second of every day?? Hell, non-whites in America have to face — it pains me even to type it! — the Betsy Ross Flag! Besides, the 1619 Project showed us that the slaughter of Muslims in Assam is a direct result of American slavery!

    1. The Democrat’s strategy may be even more cynical. Importing a significant underclass of nonvoters to pad the population numbers of Democrat controlled areas to increase the number of Democrat voting majority apportioned districts post census. It has the virtue of not having to worry about how those proles will vote since they cannot.

    2. A little perspective here please!

      You say ‘hacked’ when referring to India in 1983. In 2019, the term ‘hacked’ means lots of people saw an ad on Facebook.

      1. Actually, “hacked” was Shikha’s term, not mine. But the point is taken.

  16. But the court’s aggressive timetable was manna from heaven for Modi who got elected that same year. Modi latched on to NRC as a campaign issue, promising to kick Bangladeshis, most of whom are Muslim, out of Assam

    That’s the key sentence that shows her bias in all of this. To me, it sounds like this a campaign issue that a lot of people in India actually care about, so Modi seized on it because he was running for office. To her, it’s an incidental bit of happenstance that unfortunately empowered a dictator.

  17. Phew! I’m relieved that Shikha found a way to blame Trump for a problem that has existed for decades before he became president.

    1. Modi has been trying to take away the legal-human status of these folks for the last few decades? Is that correct? Got any citations handy?

      1. Did you read the part of the article where Shikha tells us that 2,000 Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, living in Assam, were slaughtered by rioting students in 1985? And how the Indian government at that time responded by attempting to purge from India any Muslim in Assam who could not prove they had resided there before 1971? Sounds to me very much like this was a hot-button issue for at least 34 years.

        1. Did I say 1985? It was actually 1983. So it has been a hot-button issue for 36 years.

        2. The roots of the problem are old, sure. The NEWS here is that Modi (specifically) is riding these scapegoats (Muslims) AGAIN. Had Modi not deliberately chosen to re-open old wounds for fresh political gains, this issue wouldn’t be in the news. Scapegoating those “less than us” is in fashion again, spreading around the planet. That’s news… And not GOOD news in the slightest!

          1. Modi appears to have done this also in 2002, as Shikha described above, in Gujarat. He was at this sort of thing while Trump was busy losing money in his Atlantic City hotels. So how does one make it that Modi is following Trump’s lead? If anything, it sounds like the other way around.

            1. Yes, it sounds like you’re correct… Trump is cribbing from Modi, not vice versa. Various autocrats crib from each other, is the generalization.

              I haz a sad!!!!

                1. Tulpa cribs from His-Her-Its inconceivably VAST ego… AND from the Evil One!

                  1. Bitch, you run around shitting up threads with gibberish about how bad other people are, thus implying you’re better than them, then want to comment on somebody else’s ego?
                    You literally referred to somebody as “the Evil One”.
                    Fuck off and die, clown

                    1. Also, asshole, you have been know to tell people to go and kill themselves! That’s evil, asshole! Do YOU know what evil is? It is YOU! AND your buddy Shitsy!

                    2. I never tell people to commit suicide… You do! So yes, I am better than you! There is NO contradiction here with the Golden Rule… If I were utterly, foam-at-the-mouth EVIL like you and Shitsy, telling people to commit suicide… Then yes, I do wish someone would yell at me and call me EVIL, which I would be, if I were doing that… So PLEASE stop being an EVIL asshole!

  18. “The West may have developed the current nativist contagion”

    The West has become the most prosperous and wealthy civilization in the history of mankind. Everyone is either trying to come here or shape their own counties in a similar fashion. Without the West, everywhere would be one big shithole, and Reason editors could sit happily in said shithole utopia.

    1. If The West developed a nativist contagion, Mahatma Gandhi was India’s patient zero.

  19. India makes me glad I was born in America.

  20. “If a country like America that has long regarded itself as a nation of immigrants and has relatively strong institutional checks against government abuse can snatch infants from the breasts of migrant moms, it becomes very hard to restrain the Modis of the world”

    WTF? Every god damned bad thing in the world is somehow America’s fault, including supposed fallout a 130 year old Supreme Court decision? Why stop there, cite Plessy [1897] while you’re at it, and the Dred Scott decision from 1857. This shit only exists in the mind of a stupid c— named Shika Dalmia. Why the hell is she even on the staff of Reason, a supposedly libertarian organization?

    1. Why the hell is she even on the staff of Reason, a supposedly libertarian organization?

      Libertarian is wrong and organization is generous.

      They rehash the WaPo at the behest of any transit authority that will throw money at them.

    2. Isn’t the whole “nursing kids separated from their moms” narrative bullshit? I recall reading someone debunking this. Oh yes:

      https://www.foxnews.com/us/ice-separated-breastfeeding-mother-child-migrant-fraud-charges-raids-mississippi-illegal-immigrants

  21. Based Pajeet really is making India a superpower by 2020! Hindus, better than anyone else, understand exactly what happens when you start allowing Muslims to replace you demographically.

  22. The crap this author dumps on Reason is one of the main reasons I’m not renewing my print subscription. She obviously has no idea who Gandhi really was and the reasons behind this so-called nativist reaction…

  23. What was the point of splitting mohammedan Pakistan off of hindu India in the first place, other than the mystical factions constantly murdering each other? And what is so bad about being tossed out into the arms of fellow amok berserkers, rather than surrounded by infidels? And wasn’t a barbed-wire barricade erected as a sort of Mason-Dixon line separating the unfriendlies from each other? And finally, why would anyone NOT appreciate amok berserkers in their neighborhoods? Do they know something our media don’t?

  24. if alive back then, Dalmia would have called the ancient greeks defending themselves against Persian invasions as nativist contagions

  25. These Kebabs aren’t going to remov themselves…

  26. “India Is Riding the Nativist Wave to Launch the Biggest Decitizenship Drive in Human History”

    India has the biggest!

    We can make #AmericaFirst!
    #MAGA

  27. Great idea, OBL! Let them all come here at the same time & we can create a 51st state called, “Assam”….I know I for one would love mi tax dollars to pay to get them on their feet!
    Agen Domino Online

  28. Also, fake news af. I checked this story on other sites and found the original 4m claim from here. http://www.rightsrisks.org/press-release/national-register-of-citizens-the-biggest-disenfranchisement-exercise-in-human-history/

    This claim is 100% bogus because there’s no basis for the estimate. There are 4 million Muslims in Assam, but this isn’t an anti-Muslim law. It’s a National Registry of Citizens that attempts to differentiate between actual residents of Assam and people who snuck in there (some Pakis, some others from the region) during the chaos of the Bangladeshi War against Pakistan.

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