Since the ruling BJP-led government’s official stance was that it would absorb and give citizenship to all Hindus originating from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, one may assume that Hindu Bengalis excluded from the Assam NRC will eventually be absorbed as citizens; but then what would happen to the non-Hindus? The ramifications of this widening groundswell of public apprehension (that the NRC drive is mainly ethnic and more exactly against minority communities in Assam) were taken seriously enough by the government. Sheikh Hasina raised the matter personally with Mr Modi in New York, reportedly for the first time. Despite soothing noises by Mr Modi, the sense of disquiet remains.
What is most likely to follow is a painful process of going through the legal grind for the excluded who are not saved by the Citizenship Amendment Bill – assuming the Bill will save anyone at all. That too remains a matter of doubt as there are legal and procedural issues.
At the end of it all, thousands of poor people will be further pauperised by the costs of legal fees. Some may die in detention camps or commit suicide. India’s close ties with Bangladesh will be severely tested. The Assamese jatiyobadis may earn an international reputation for xenophobia.
One of the basic differences between the present wave of protests and the Shahbagh was the Shahbagh was not necessarily considered anti-government and in way complemented the ruling Awami League’s agenda of punishing the war criminals of 1971 liberation war.
Of late, the government has become concerned about the use of social media as such movements are often seen to bring in disruptions and suspected of opposition conspiring to take these popular issues to build up an anti-government agitation. Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina has expressed concern over the use of social media, especially the Facebook, for spreading misinformation for misleading the people. The PM’s comments highlight the impact of the social media on the student agitation on the road safety.