Yesterday, Haryana CM Manohar Lal proclaimed that Haryana will implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Under pressure of coming elections (which Congress is sure to lose badly), Bhupinder Hooda jumped to support the proposal. So now we have bipartisan support for NRC to be implemented in the state. Good.
It is only a matter of time before this spreads to all other states after Haryana has received bipartisan support for the implementation of NRC.
Again, good development, but we need to learn the lessons from the Assam experience. A few days ago, I wrote a very bitter and despairing article on the NRC in Assam, admitting how everyone had let down the state, allowed its demography to be altered irrevocably by foreigners. The common refrain is that illegal migrants had been one step ahead of genuine citizens, getting their documents in better shape.
Liberals obviously see the Assam experience as a victory. Well, they see anything that takes India one step closer to destruction as a victory. They hope it will put a chill on plans to implement NRC anywhere else.
Remember, liberals don’t care if people eventually wake up and implement NRC everywhere. They just need it to be put off long enough so that the demography changes irrevocably.
And if you have lived in any major Indian city, you know that the ground is shifting under our feet and very fast.
We need a strategy.
The very first thing to do is pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which will clearly and unapologetically spell out the difference between an asylum seeker (such as a Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist etc escaping from Pakistan/Bangladesh) and an infiltrator.
To a large extent, this should solve the problem of genuine Indians losing out while “better prepared” illegal migrants get through.
The second thing is to secure the border, especially with Bangladesh. The BSF needs to be given the resources to seal the border completely and stop all illegal border crossings.
An easy thing to do is to immediately deport all illegal Rohingya migrants from India. To a large extent, the government knows who they are and where they are.
The fourth leg is a diplomatic one and will require delicate negotiations. We have to get Bangladesh to agree to take deported illegal migrants. Remember that even if illegal migrants are isolated, we still need a sovereign country (usually Bangladesh) to accept them back. This will need a tricky carrot and stick policy. Because Bangladesh is an ally after all and China is always lurking in the shadows, waiting to snag any opportunity that might be presented by worsening India-Bangladesh relations.
The fifth and most important is to create an iron-clad law defining two things: first, what constitutes proof of Indian citizenship. Since we have very few cases of citizenship by naturalization, this largely means we have to define what is needed to prove that at least one parent is an Indian citizen (and the other parent cannot be an illegal migrant).
This is a difficult task, given the realities of India. But tell me what is easy about India? Is it easy to manage one billion people, when less than half of them had access to toilets just five years ago?
The second thing the law must do is explain what happens to illegal migrants, once identified. We cannot have them burdening public finances by means of the welfare system.
One cost-effective way of getting rid of illegal migrants is getting them to ‘self deport.’ It means we make it too hard for them to stay around in the shadows: how about no SIM cards, no welfare, no admission for their kids to public schools, no way to get a job, start a business or obtain a drivers license?
As I said, what liberals are really hoping for is that we keep putting NRC off until it is too late. They have a two-pronged strategy for achieving this. The first is to exaggerate the difficulties of the citizenship determination exercise, harping incessantly on the poverty and backwardness of India (I’m curious: whose governments left India poor and backward?). The second is to shame Indians by drawing unnecessary comparisons with the Trump administration in the United States. It’s a pity that we even need to point out that America is a nation of immigrants, while India was born out of Partition. And in any case, what America does is not our business. We have already had one Partition. Within India, we have had several “mini-Partitions” already: the displacement of Asomiya people, the expulsion of Hindus from Kashmir and so on. No more Partition. Never again. The Israelis get it. Why can’t we?