The entire country has been in a state of unrest ever since the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) was passed on 11th December 2019.
There have been mass protests in the country and many people, both civilian and police, have gotten severely injured or have lost their lives. The CAA has declared non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to be persecuted minorities and they will be granted Indian citizenship unquestionably if they applied for one. Along with CAA, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has also been implemented.
NRC is a document that records every living Indian citizen. It was updated only once, in 1951, post the independence from the British. The government plans to update this record once again, which would require the citizens to prove that they were an Indian citizen on the date 25th March 1971. If a person was born post-1971, then they have to prove that they are related to an Indian citizen. The only place in which NRC has been prevalent after 1951 in Assam. And from the procedure in Assam, it has been made clear that a person has to prove that they are a citizen through parental relations only. And this is the main reason why poor women will be the most affected party in this endeavor of the government.
In our country, especially in the rural parts, which is 65.97% of the population, a common tradition is to marry off their daughters when they are very young and do not have contact with them again. After marriage, a girl belongs to her husband’s family, and most of the time, a girl has to cut off all her parental ties after being wed. It is significantly easier for men to prove their citizenship validity through their parental relations. Now, women are required to rekindle with their parental relation, some have to travel very far to reach their village and they must try to get hold of the required proof. Also, in the rural areas, it is very common for children to be born in the house with a midwife instead of a hospital, therefore, most of these children do not have their birth certificate. Since women are married off at a very young age, even before they are 18 years of age, most of them do not have a proper education. Therefore, it is impossible to produce a school or university certificate as proof.
According to the reports, many women in Assam have been left out of NRC because they could not get the proper documentation, even when their brothers have done so and have gotten to the final stage of NRC. The documents submitted to NRC is permanent and cannot be resubmitted. Thus, if these women with little to no education make even a single spelling mistake, their documentation gets frozen and they will be left out of NRC. The transgender women and people of the LGBTQ+ community have it even worse than poor women because most have them have been disowned by their parental family due to their sexuality and there is no means for them to prove that they are citizens of India.
The people who are left out the NRC are declared to be foreigners and illegal immigrants. The fate of these “foreigners” is still undetermined but there is news of massive detention camps being built in a remote part of the Northeast to house them. The government has not yet revealed the necessity of a detention camp, but to most people, it seems like history is repeating itself. Once again, women have been put in a horrible predicament due to the patriarchy of our society. It is necessary that the government understands the working of our society and makes a provision for the poor women and transgender to prove their citizenship if they are unable to rekindle with their parental relations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article is written by Sahana, our intern.