Can Bangladesh handle another refugee crisis?
The politics of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Registry of Citizenship (NRC) is eerily similar to the politics of Rohingya persecution in Myanmar. Both of them are, were, and will always be deeply related to the internal security, stability, and development of Bangladesh and the entire region.
Both of them are built upon the foundation of identity based politics, turned into de jure stripping from the structures of citizenship.
Both of them are built on the exact same claim of “Intruders from Bangladesh.”
Of course, both cases are not exactly the same. The Rohingya persecution was targeted on an ethnic group using religion as a trope, but those outside of that religion were not spared either.
The NRC-CAA, because they still have to maintain the veneer of rule of law due to the election process being somewhat functioning, has technically used the narrative of national inclusion to operationalize religious exclusion by specifically asking Muslims to provide a proof of citizenship.
The apology for the system is that it does not exclude refugees, only intruders, the refugee status being granted to the Hindus and the intruder status to the Muslims.
This discrimination is clearly a violation of the Indian constitution, so there is a second apology that Indian citizens need not fear, as they will not be stripped of their citizenship.
The question of proving one’s citizenship is where the narrative of the NRC-CAA and the Rohingya persecution overlap; the dirty politics of documentation was brought up in both places.
This is because both parties know that their political or ideological opponents, or the community they wish to exclude, are less likely to have documentation in the first place.
But even if we follow the narrative of the Modi government -- that the government would protect persecuted Non-Muslims -- that narrative does not stand because persecuted Non-Muslims from places like Sri Lanka and Tibet are not being protected.
This clarifies that the claim of protecting minorities is just hogwash. The minorities that are “politically problematic” are being excluded and those who are politically necessary are being protected.
Because, if BJP becomes the protector of non-Muslims of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, it would be easy to characterize these states as belligerently anti-Hindu and hence Hindutva would be shown as necessary to counter that.
This is no humanitarianism, this is election engineering.
Because Modi still needs to subvert the elections process to gain absolute power, he is restructuring the electorate by excluding Muslims and lower-caste Hindus, because they usually vote for other parties.
The same sort of trick was played in Rakhine. In order to legitimize its hold on power, the junta, with Suu Kyi as its counsellor, backed the belligerently Buddhist extremist program of Ma Ba Tha for demographic engineering and ultimately using genocide as a tool to restructure the demography of the once Muslim-prone state of Rakhine.
Even though the repression and forced migration continued for decades, it slowly turned increasingly genocidal over this decade. Activists noticed early on, but the government was happy to ignore it.
In its silence, an entire genocide was carried out. There was no pressure from our government to the genocidal junta in Myanmar, but only the banner of “internal matter,” whereas it was the government’s responsibility to turn it into an international humanitarian matter.
It is our state’s responsibility, as it is built upon the nation of the oppressed, to stand beside the repressed people worldwide, something we do by routinely standing beside Palestinians.
But we don’t do so for repressed Muslims near our home. We ignored the Rohingya, and now we are ignoring the disenfranchised Muslims in India.
Accommodating violence instead of resisting it is not humanitarianism -- it’s complicity.
Genocide Watch now observes that India is completing the preconditions of a genocide. If structural repression -- if not a full on genocide -- heightens, which is the very purpose of this act, we will have another refugee crisis on our doors, and this time, from all three sides of our border.
Where will we accommodate them, even if we wanted to?
Many Bangladeshis seem to think that this law is just because it pushes back Bangladeshi illegals. But again, just like the Rohingya, most are not illegals, but just paperless. Minorities are the ones that are paperless.
And the NRC, the grandfather of the CAA, proves that these lists are full of errors and structural disenfranchisement of Indian citizens who have contributed to the country for decades.
The CAA has no justification and it would be wrong for Bangladeshis from any creed to be happy or silent about it.
It robs Bangladesh of its harmonious identity and exposes it as an agent of structural communal repression and establishes India as the protector of Hindus in Bangladesh, a claim extremely demeaning for Bangladeshi Hindus, many of whom sacrificed greatly during the Liberation War.
So it falls upon our government to express its opposition to the bill, if not for humanitarian reasons, then for reasons of protecting our national narrative. The CAA challenges our pursuit of communal harmony and establishes us as a repressive state.
If the current regime truly wants to show itself as the protectors of harmony, it must stand against the disharmonious narrative of the BJP government.
If it does not, then another security threat is incoming.
Push-ins have started. Villagers are guarding the borderlands. Many Bangladeshis are frustrated with the Rohingya influx, even though they share a sympathy. More push-ins may not be tolerated and those who are pushed in would be desperate as well, robbed of their identity and rights.
This time around, if the Bangladesh government tries to do another refugee accommodation, things may not go as smoothly. While there will be squabbles in the borderlands, there will be strifes in the Indian states.
Because, like before, BJP goons will take the law as an open permission to attack Muslims since their citizenhood has been questioned by the government.
Lynchings of Muslims and Dalits had started long ago, and so have the push-ins into Bangladesh. Another refugee crisis is imminent and we must act now to counteract it.
Anupam Debashis Roy is an editor of Muktiforum. He can be reached at [email protected]