'NRC: India stands on dangerous precipice'

Niraja Gopal Jayal speaks at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Saturday. DH PHOTO/IRSHAD MAHAMMAD

"As the NRC converts legitimate citizens into illegal immigrants and illegal immigrants into stateless people, both destined for the camp, India stands on the edge of a dangerous precipice where its constitutional values and moral compass are at grave risk.”

This telling remark by Niraja Gopal Jayal, author and professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, had the crowd in rapt attention at the Bangalore Litfest. With the news awash in references to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), she said the word citizenship had acquired almost menacing overtones.

She elaborated: "It conjures up anxieties about assembling documents that certify our existence and our belonging in this nation in ways that pass muster in the eyes of the state; and the fear that not having these could result in being placed in a camp like the one that has come up in Nelamangala not far from here." 

The ostensible object of NRC is "to sort legitimate citizens from illegal aliens masquerading as citizens, with the presumption that most, if not all, illegal migrants are Bangladeshis (read Muslims)." 

If perchance any Hindus among the aliens are caught in the web of the NRC, "we have the CAB at hand to legalise them. If NRC is carving out paths to statelessness for disfavoured groups, CAB is creating paths to citizenship for preferred groups." She also talked about the looming threat of NRC across India. "A society so historically undocumented there would be many poor and vulnerable people who cannot produce documents to establish their ancestry." 

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