Born in Assam, 71-year-old, Muhammad Rahat has recently been declared a Bangladeshi infiltrator for failing to produce documentation that can prove him an Indian citizen. He was taken into detention camps as he was only a small scale farmer with no means to prove his origin.
The legal definition of an infiltrator is one who is not a resident of the state, particularly one who does not end up producing the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The implementation of the NRC was one of the proposals put forward by BJP during their election campaign which gained massive popularity amongst the Hindu majority.
Earlier in April, BJP tweeted that “We will ensure implementation of NRC in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs: Shri”
After coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP renounced the state citizenship of over four million Muslims. The citizenship bill proposed by the ruling BJP disowned the population that was forced to migrate from Bangladesh in 1971. Reports say that over two million could be left with nowhere to go as the mostly illiterate population has no way of proving their origin.
Immigration has been a sensitive topic in Assam since colonial rule but many harsh and derogatory statements have been made regarding the innocent muslims inhabitants of it. Amit Shah –Indian Home Minister- has gone as far as calling the infiltrators, ‘termites’. He said “they are eating the grain that should go to the poor, they are taking our jobs. The T in TMC stands for Tushtikaran, (appeasement), M for Mafia and C for Chitfunds,” while rallying in West Bengal.
Due to such extreme statements and measures being implemented, innocent people such as Mohammad Rahat Ali are being detained. They fear deportation, persecution and are victims of disbelief when they are tortured for living on land that was righteously given to them by their ancestors. “I am Indian, how can they force me to leave the country? I was born in Assam but how can they call me a Bangladeshi? I’m shocked at this. I still don’t understand this. What is this law?” Says Rahat devastatingly. Another sufferer Madhubala Mandal, had been held in detention cells like a criminal for not being literate enough to prove her ancestry. After being released Mandal said “Now, how will I survive? I’m ruined. The government just finished my life by branding me as Bangladeshi. I’m too weak to work.”
In contrast, Amit Shah is still proclaiming that
“Our biggest achievement is that, within Assam, we implemented NRC and identified these infiltrators”.
Living conditions in these detention centres are apalling and there is no procedural clarity on how to deal with inmates. Mental health too is a significant problem since inmates rarely get to meet their families and are not allowed to be employed like regular prisoners.
Lastly, Hindu hard-line parties in Modi’s coalition have called for mass deportations, although Bangladesh has refused to accept any. Over nine-hundred Muslims are languishing in Assam’s six detention centres that can only be described as India’s version of Auschwitz