- Prodded by an unrelenting Supreme Court Bench, Assam met its December 31 deadline for publication of the first draft of the updated National Register of Citizens. In the event, the list proved to be a draft of a draft, with 13.9 million cases remaining under scrutiny and names of only 19 million of the 32.9 million applicants making the cut. It is to the government’s credit that its repeated clarifications that missing out on the list is no reason to panic kept people’s anxieties in check.
- The bigger challenge lies ahead when the contours of the draft assume a firmer shape, and there is a clearer sense of the numbers that do not make it to the Draft Consolidated List of the NRC — by implication, people who are illegal immigrants in Assam. The process will be protracted, with claims and contestations even after the final draft. But, when completed, one can only hope the exercise will bring some closure to the vexed issue of foreigners in the State, one that had triggered the six-year-long Assam Agitation that ended in the mid-1980s but has continued to roil its politics. The promise of detection and expulsion of aliens has propelled two parties to power 31 years apart, the Asom Gana Parishad in 1985 and the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2016.
- While the scale is debatable, border crossings into Assam and West Bengal are a reality, and political parties are to blame for turning a blind eye to the situation over the decades in order to cultivate vote banks. The issue has, however, become much larger than a cut-and-dried question of who is an Indian citizen and who is not. There are important humanitarian concerns at play, concerns that go beyond identification and numbers. Nearly five decades have elapsed since the cut-off date of March 25, 1971, and individuals who have sneaked in illegally have children and grandchildren by now. Since India is the only country they have ever known, where are they expected to go? The conditions under which some 20,000-odd doubtful, or ‘D’, voters have been confined in Assam do not inspire confidence. That the list of aliens will only increase is daunting given the absence of a deportation treaty with Bangladesh. The situation has been muddied with the Centre’s intent to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and make Hindu illegal migrants and those from certain other minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. Part of the BJP’s manifesto for the 2014 general election, the Bill, with a cut-off date of December 31, 2014, undermines the process of the NRC, which is denominationally agnostic. The BJP would do better to focus on its campaign promise of sealing the India-Bangladesh border and explore the possibility of provisions such as transparent work permits for foreigners, rather than push for this politically contentious legislation.
Panic: sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.
Example: She hit him in panic
Synonyms: alarm, anxiety, nervousness, fear, fright, trepidation, dread, terror, agitation
Antonyms: assurance, calmness, confidence, repose, security
Contour: an outline, especially one representing or bounding the shape or form of something.
Example: She traced the contours of his face with her finger
Synonyms: outline, shape, form, lines, curves, figure, silhouette, profile
Consolidate: combine a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.
Example: All manufacturing activities have been consolidated in new premises
Synonyms: combine, unite, merge, integrate, amalgamate, fuse, synthesizeAntonyms: allot, appoint, apportion, appropriate, assign, deal, dispense, distribute
Scrutiny: critical observation or examination.
Example: Every aspect of local government was placed under scrutiny
Synonyms: examination, inspection, survey, study, perusal, investigation
Agitation: a state of anxiety or nervous excitement.
Example: She was wringing her hands in agitation
Synonyms: agitation, excitement, zymolysis, fermenting, unrest, ferment
Cultivate: prepare and use land for crops or gardening.
Example: Traditionally, producers begin cultivating the land to prepare for planting in the early spring.
Synonyms: till, plow, dig, hoe, farm, work, fertilize, mulch, weed
Antonyms: denaturalise, denaturalize
Confine: keep or restrict someone or something within certain limits of space, scope, quantity, or time.
Example: He does not confine his message to politics
Synonyms: enclose, incarcerate, imprison, intern, impound, hold captive
Antonyms: unloosen, liberate, unloose, free, release, loose
Daunt: make someone feel intimidated or apprehensive.
Example: Some people are daunted by technology
Synonyms: discourage, deter, demoralize, put off, dishearten, dispirit
Antonyms: animate, buoy, cheer, embolden, encourage
Agnostic: someone who is doubtful or noncommittal about something
Synonyms: doubter, sceptic, agnostic, skeptic
Denominational: relating to or according to the principles of a particular religious denomination.
Example: Denominational relief agencies
Synonyms: Value, unit, grade, faith
Antonyms: nonsectarian, unsectarian
Transparent: allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.
Example: Transparent blue water
Synonyms: clear, crystal clear, translucent, pellucid, limpid, glassy
Antonyms: unobvious, opaque, corrupt, crooked, thick
Contentious: causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.
Example: A contentious issue
Synonyms: controversial, disputable, debatable, disputed, open to debate, vexed
Antonyms: unargumentative, uncontroversial, noncontroversial