Showing posts with label featured. Show all posts
Showing posts with label featured. Show all posts

Understanding NRC: A Politically Neutral Perspective

8:27 AM
Writes: Phinjo Wangyal Gurung

"Writing is not just a form of divertissement but a healing process that soothes a perturbed and stressful mind, rejuvenates your spirit, and brings you back to life."
National Register of Citizens of India
National Register of Citizens of India - Wikipedia

An atmosphere of dubiety seems to have taken over the hills ever since the announcement that once BJP forms government at the center it will Implement National Register of Citizens (NRC) throughout India. People are muddled about how NRC will affect the Indian Gorkhas in real time. Contrary to the popular belief, NRC will have a definite impact on the Indian Gorkhas unless certain conditions and safeguards are met. Here in this small write up I will try and dissect NRC from a political neutral viewpoint bringing out only those facts that are related to NRC along with its implications on the Indian Gorkhas once implemented.

What is NRC?
The National Register of Citizens is a register containing the names of all the genuine Indian citizens, it was first prepared in 1951 for Assam. NRC draws its power from the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Rules framed therein. The main objective of preparing the register is to identify illegal immigrants as foreigners and deport them back to their countries.

Issues Related with NRC
(1) The Question of Immunity
After the publication of the first draft of NRC in Assam last year about 40 lakh people were identified as illegal migrants and were excluded from NRC for various reasons, including some 1,50,000 Gorkhas, despite the fact that BJP had promised that Gorkhas living in Assam would not be excluded. Amit Shah recently made a similar promise from Kalimpong that the Gorkhas living in Darjeeling Hills will not be excluded from NRC. With BJPs protracted and strained history of breaking the Gorkhas trust and faith, only time will tell if he is really going to walk the talk this time.

Once excluded from NRC, the person ceases to be a citizen of India. He will no longer be entitled to the rights guaranteed to an Indian Citizen under the constitution and law including the right to vote. The implementation of NRC should not be taken daintily, it is an issue of profound importance with far-reaching consequence as the fate and citizenship rights of lakh of India Gorkhas is at stake here. Immunity, therefore, becomes a matter of paramount concern for all the Indian Gorkhas.

The question now arises as to why about 1,50,000 Indian Gorkhas were excluded from the register in Assam (similar exclusion can happen in Darjeeling) despite the fact that NDA government had assured them that Gorkhas living in Assam will not be touched by NRC. The answer to this question lies in the Citizenship Act of 1955.

It should be noted that NRC draws its power and authority from the Citizenship Act of 1955, therefore, any question of Immunity can only be granted through an act of Parliament by amending the Citizenship Act . Verbal assurances given at the time of the election in the election manifesto, which itself has no legal support is inutile.

The NDA Government had brought a Bill i.e. Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 which had granted immunity from being declared an illegal immigrant to persons belonging to Hindus, Buddhist, Jains, and Sikhs coming from Bangladesh and Pakistan, however, the said Bill did not mention Indian Gorkhas.  To add insult to injury the Bill did not see the light of the day and died its natural death in the Rajya Sabha. For an Ordinary Bill to be passed into a law it has to be passed by both the houses of the parliament with a simple majority. BJP led NDA still does not have the required numbers in the Rajya Sabha. Although it commands an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha it is still a minority in the Rajya Sabha. Rajya Sabha is BJPs Achilles Heel. This is the reason why the names of thousands of Indian Gorkhas living in Assam were struck of the National  Register on some flimsy grounds. Despite lofty promises being made the promises were not backed by law. As the commitment lacked legal support it could not be implemented therefore the fate and citizenship rights of thousands of Indian Gorkhas living in Assam still hangs in limbo.

A similar situation is brewing up in Darjeeling, only verbal assurances have been given by the party president. The Bill as it stands today, still does not specifically mention ” Indian Gorkhas”. Even if somehow the party manages to include Indian Gorkhas in the Citizenship Amendment Bill, there is no guarantee that the Bill will pass as BJP is a minority in Rajya Sabha and does not command enough support to pass an Ordinary  Bill in one go. Therefore implementing NRC in Darjeeling without specific legal immunity to the INDIAN GORKHAS is suicidal.

(2) Documentation and related matters
It has been found that the names of many persons in Assam were dropped from the draft NRC only because of minor differences in the spellings of Bengali names into English in different documents.  Several instances were encountered where a single letter variation, for example, “Omar” and “Onar”, was enough to rule that a person was a foreigner. I now ask how many of us in Darjeeling are not facing similar problems? How many of us have all their and the names of their family members correctly spelled in all their documents? To be honest I don’t. If that be the case my name along with the names of my family members will be struck off the NRC if implemented.

Likewise the rural unlettered are typically vague about their date of birth. A person could be excluded from the register if he/she told the NRC tribunal 40 when the documents recorded to be 42.

Rural uneducated women are especially in danger of exclusion from the citizenship register.  Most of them have no birth certificates, are not sent to schools and are married before they become adults, therefore, by the time their names first appear in the voters list these are in a different village where they live after marriage, which is different from those of their parents. They are told by the NRC tribunal that they have no documents to prove that they are indeed the children of the people they claim are their parents. There were cases in ASSAM of being excluded from the citizenship register on this ground alone.

(3) Opaque Process
NRC empowers the Assam police to identify anyone it suspects as foreigners and illegal migrants. How many of us can repose 100% faith and vouch that the police force works with impeccable integrity? If the police are granted such wide powers don’t you think that such power can be abused? Anyone can be picked up by the police on flimsy ground and be declared a foreigner anytime.

The police have also been empowered to refer the cases to a Foreigners Tribunal(FT). It has been alleged that the Tribunals are not presided by judges but by lawyers and in some cases by persons with no legal knowledge, who were appointed by the party.

Moreover, it has also been alleged that the police and the presiding officers in FTs( foreigners tribunal ) work just to fulfill the targets that are set by the party and not to dispense justice.

Not to mention the enormous amount of money one needs to spend fighting these legal cases in the Tribunals proving ones citizenship once declared a foreigner or an illegal migrant under NRC.

(4) The Question of Double Jeopardy
Article 20(2) of the constitution guarantees to every citizen the right not to be prosecuted and punished for the same offense more than once as a fundamental Right. But this principle has been waived off for Foreigners Tribunals(FT). It has been found that even after an FT had confirmed a citizen of India another FT and at times the same FT can again send notice to the same person to prove his citizenship once again. This is a direct violation of Article 20(2) as guaranteed by the constitution of India.

With the entire burden of proving citizenship on one’s shoulders and the arbitrary and opaque multiple forums to which one will be summoned, people deprived of education and resource will be caught in a maze of bureaucratic red tape from which they will find it hard to emerge. There are indeed few parallels in the world where the state itself produces statelessness on the scale and manner that it is doing in Assam and soon in the Hill areas of Darjeeling. Political parties advocating NRC in Darjeeling should exercise caution and do so only after an in-depth analysis of ground realities, after taking into confidence all the stakeholder without which the future and Citizenship Rights of thousands of Indian Gorkhas living in the area could be jeopardized once and for all.

Via The DC

Shiva Thapa 1st Indian to Assure 4th Straight Asian Boxing Championships Medal

6:26 PM
Shiva Thapa 1st Indian to Assure 4th Straight Asian Boxing Championships Medal

Bangkok: Shiva Thapa (60kg) secured himself an unprecedented fourth successive medal, while veteran L Sarita Devi (60kg) made the semifinals for the first time in nearly a decade to continue India's stupendous run at the Asian Boxing Championships here on Tuesday.

In all, eight Indian boxers -- four women and four men -- advanced to the medal rounds on day two of quarterfinals.

The 25-year-old Thapa defeated Thailand's Rujakran Juntrong in a one-sided lightweight (60kg) contest. He prevailed 5-0 and has a tough semifinal lined up against Kazakhstan's Zakir Safiullin, a silver-medallist from the 2015 edition.

Thapa had won a gold in 2013, a bronze in 2015 and a silver in the 2017 edition of the marquee continental event. He is the first Indian to achieve the incredible feat.

In the women's draw, former world champion Sarita, who last reached the Asian semis back in 2010 and ended with a gold, defeated Kazakhstan's Rimma Volossenko in a split decision to advance.

Former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen (51kg) too booked her maiden semifinal berth at the tournament, beating Kazakhstan's Nazym Kyzaibay in the quarters.

Last edition's silver-medallist Manisha (54kg) also secured herself at least a bronze by defeating Filipino Petecio Zzaa Nice, while former national champion Simranjit Kaur (64kg) edged past a gritty Ha Thi Linh of Vietnam to make the last four.

Joining Thapa in the men's semifinals were Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Satish Kumar (+91kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg) and Ashish (69kg).

Ashish Kumar got the better of Kyrgyzstan's Omerbek Uulu Behzhigit in a unanimous verdict, while his namesake trounced Vietnam's Tran Duc Tho 5-0, displaying an impeccable counter-attacking game.

In the evening session, Satish out-punched Korean Kim Dohyeon, an exhausting showdown that left the Indian with a cut above his right eye.

Thapa, who is also a former world championship bronze-medallist and a two-time national champion, opened the proceedings for India and got busy immediately.

The Indian had a spring in his step as he went about dismantling his clueless opponent.

The technically superior Thapa also seemed to have added some more power to his punches and an aggressive streak which his rival found tough to deal with.

Ashish, on the other hand, was locked in a messy contest with Bekzhigit but was clearly the more accurate of the two boxers, finding favour with all the five judges.

Sarita also endured a draining contest against Volossenko but the veteran from Manipur raised the bar when it mattered to move ahead.

The performance in the championship is a turnaround of sorts for the 37-year-old, who ended without a medal at the world championships in Delhi last year.

However, Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist Naman Tanwar (91kg) bowed out after losing his quarterfinal bout to Jordan's Hussein Eishaish Iashaish 0-5.

In the women's draw, it was curtains for Nupur (75kg) after she went down to North Korean Pak Un Sim in her quarterfinal bout.

Source: NEWS18

Brief historical trajectory of Darjeeling-Duars region and the need for a permanent political solution

10:17 AM
On April 8, 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its 48 pages electoral manifesto with regard to Lok Sabha Election 2019, has immense significance for the Darjeeling Duars region. Page 36 of the manifesto talks about political resolution on the matter of Gorkha and with two important highlights:

  • Recognition of the 11 left out Indian Gorkha sub-tribes as Scheduled Tribes. We are also committed to implement the reservation in the legislative assembly of Sikkim for Limboo and Tamang Tribes.
  • Commitment to work towards finding a permanent political solution to the issue of Darjeeling hills, Siliguri Terai and Dooars region.
Both the commitments have been, by and large, well appreciated, welcomed and positively taken by the Gorkhas, Rajbansis and Adivasis residing in the region.  
BJP Election Manifesto 2019 – sections relevant to Gorkhas and Darjeeling region
BJP Election Manifesto 2019 – sections relevant to Gorkhas and Darjeeling region

While the first commitment on the Gorkhas has found place in the national manifesto of BJP for the first time, the second commitment is not new to the Gorkhas and other groups. BJP has been committing and recommitting on the very critical second issue for the last three Lok Sabha Elections.

Recognition of the 11 left out Indian Gorkha sub-tribes as Scheduled Tribes

BJP’s clear commitment to recognize the 11 left out Indian Gorkha sub-tribes as Scheduled Tribes has found its place in its national manifesto for the first time, although the process has been under consideration for the last five years under the BJP led government. It has been long overdue as the West Bengal state cabinet approved granting of ST status to 11 Gorkha sub-tribes before the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and sent it to the Centre for consideration and approval. The Union ministry for Tribal Affairs constituted a high powered committee in 2016 which had visited Darjeeling as well as Sikkim and met representatives of the various sub-tribes namely Bhujel, Gurung, Magar, Rai, Khas, Newar, Jogi, Sunwar, Yakha (Dewan), Thami and Dhimal. Gorkhas are yet the formally hear any concrete decision of the Government in this regard. The commitment by the BJP in its manifesto on this issue is, therefore, a welcome step.

Permanent political solution to the issue of Darjeeling hills, Siliguri Terai and Dooars region

BJP for the third time has recommitted for finding a political solution to over century old regional political aspirations of Darjeelinghills, Siliguri Terai and Dooars.However, this time, BJP has taken a holistic/inclusive approach towards Darjeeling constituency, as against the last two manifestos of 2009 and 2014 where BJP stated that it will “sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long pending demands of the Gorkhas, the Adivasis and other people of Darjeeling district and the Dooars region” The last two approaches were, therefore, people specific and little communal in nature.  
This time the approach is region specific and therefore inclusive and more holistic in its nature. We should remember that other social groups besides Gorkhas and Adivasis also inhabit the constituency.  The term ‘Political Solution’ needs to be read, understood and internalised in proper perspective.
Historical trajectory of Darjeeling-Duars Region and the need for a permanent political solution
The second commitment of BJP is more critical at this juncture needing further debate and clearer ways forward. Towards that end, it is cardinal that we carefully navigate the historical trajectory of the region. This becomes important for our consumption as well as for guidance of the politicians and policymakers to make informed decisions while they attempt to find a permanent political solution of the issues at hand with regard to the historical and current political realities of the region.
Histories of Darjeeling-Duar region unfold the fact that the geopolitical situation in the region had (have) never been stable. The region passed through a number of vulnerable positions and different events in history, each having marked effects in the region and its people.

Political History

Politically, Darjeeling-Duars never belonged to West Bengal. The region was ruled by Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal. This has been admitted by the Government of West Bengal in a White Paper published in 1986.
The most important year in the history of the region happens to be 1642 when the first Chogyal (Bhutia king) of Sikkim, Phuntshog Namgyal was consecrated. Once in power the Namgyal had to face numerous rebellions from people who were already living in the region. The toughest resistance to the Chogyal came from three communities Lepchas, Limbus and Mangars, out of whom the Mangars were beaten and pushed westward.
The Chogyal then entered a sacred treaty popularly known as lhomen-tsong-sum (lho-Bhutias, men-Lepchas, tsong-Limbus, and sum-three), thus giving us the Bhutia-Lepcha-Limbu trinity. This is the bedrock on which the kingdom of Sikkim was formed.
The three Himalayan Hillmen – Lepcha, Nepali and Bhutia, 1880s
The three Himalayan Hillmen – Lepcha, Nepali and Bhutia, 1880s

 Based on available historical records, the political contour of Darjeeling and Duars may briefly be summarized as under:
PeriodPolitical Events
Priorto 1706The present district of Darjeeling and Duars were part of the Kingdom of Sikkim
1706Kalimpong hills along with the adjoining Duars were annexed by Bhutan.
1777Darjeeling along with its adjoining hills (Kurseong) and adjacent Terai (Siliguri) was appropriated by the Gorkha kingdom from the Kingdom of Sikkim.
1816Sugauli Treaty signed between East India Company (EIC) and King of Nepal, handing over Darjeeling region to EIC.
1817Treaty of Titaliya signed between East India Company and King of Sikkim, through which EIC returned Darjeeling region to the Kingdom of Sikkim.
1835Darjeeling along with its adjoining hills (Kurseong) was leased to British India by the King of Sikkim
1850The adjoining Terai (Siliguri) was taken over by British India and included in Jalpaiguri District
1865Kalimpong hills along with adjoining Duars were annexed by British India and included in Jalpaiguri district
1866The hills of Kalimpong were included in Darjeeling district leaving the Duars under Jalpaiguri district
1880Siliguri was taken out from Jalpaiguri and included in Darjeeling district, according the district its final shape
1905The district in the present shape (including Kalimpong) was included in the Bhagalpur Division, Bihar (Undivided Bengal)
1912The district was included in the Rajshahi Division under British India  (now in Bangladesh)
After 1947After the independence, the status of the district was ambiguous and in fact locals were not sure if Darjeeling was part of India or East Pakistan (see the news clip below).
1948Sikkim’s king claimed for the return of Darjeeling tracts but the Government of India ignored the claim.
1956Government of India enacts The Absorbed Areas (Laws) Act, 1954 (Act XX of 1954), and Darjeeling was ‘absorbed’ into west Bengal without any consideration of local sentiments.
Ambiguity surrounding Darjeeling saw Pakistani flag flutter in Capital Hall for 5 days. 
[Source: Barun Roy, 2003, Fallen Cicada]
The forceful absorption of Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars in Bengal has caused and continues to cause the indigenous population of this region grave problems.
Up until 1971, this region was home to predominantly three major groups, the Gorkhas – which is an umbrella term to identify all the Indian nationals who are ethnically Nepali or whose lingua franca is Nepali (Lepchas, Bhutias etc), the Rajbanshis and the Adivasis. Though there were Bengalis living in this region, they were only handful in numbers.
However, following the India-Pakistan conflict of 1965, a large influx of refugees from Bangladesh started to enter north-Bengal, and this trickle turned into an ocean of refugees following the Bangladesh war of liberation in 1971. Supported by successive governments of West Bengal as their ‘vote bank’, there have been a huge influx of people from Bangladesh into north Bengal, thus changing the entire demographics of our region significantly, and the original people of the region – the Gorkhas, the Rajbanshis and the Adivasis have ended up becoming minorities in our own lands.

Administrative History

Administratively, the district of Darjeeling was never included in the mainstream development process till the independence of India. It was always treated as a special region administered directly by the Governor General. 
Broad administrative profile of Darjeeling district may be summarized as under:
PeriodAdministrative StatusRemarks
Prior to 1861Non Regulated AreaActs and Regulations did not come to force unless specially extended to it. The Governor General possessed the power of adopting legislation by means of executive order.
1861-70Regulated AreaActs and Regulations normally applied in the district
1870-74Non Regulated Area  Acts and Regulations did not come to force unless specially extended to it. The Governor General possessed the power of adopting legislation by means of executive order
1874-1919Scheduled DistrictNormal legislation and jurisdictions were in force only in part or with modification if necessary of any enactment in force at a time.
1919-1935Backward TractThe district was excluded and declared a “Backward Tract” and administration was under Governor in Council. Any act passed by Bengal government wouldn’t be applicable to Darjeeling district unless the Governor in Council approved it.  
1935-47Partially Excluded AreaNo Act either of the Federal Legislature or of the Provincial Legislature was to be extended until and unless the governor of the province would give his assent to application of the Act in its entirety or with such modifications or exception as he thought necessary. Further the governor was empowered to make regulations and the regulations thus made could annul any federal or provincial or Indian law in existence in case their non-conformity to the relations thus made.
Post Independence1956Merged into West BengalThe Absorbed Areas (Laws) Act, 1954 (see Schedule 5) apportioned and merged the district into the state of West Bengal
1988-2010Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC)DGHC Act of 1988 led to the formation of an autonomous council consisting of the three hill subdivisions of the district and some mauzas of Siliguri Sub-Division for the socio-economic and cultural development of the hill areas of the district.
2011- till dateGorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)GTA Act of 2011 led to the formation Gorkhaland Territorial Administration consisting of the three hill subdivisions and some mauzas of the district for the socio-economic and cultural development of the people.

Struggle for Administrative Status

It is pertinent to recollect that the Gorkhas (inclusive of Nepalis, Lepchas, Bhutias), Rajbanshis and Adibasis residing in Darjeeling-Duars region of Northern West Bengal with diverse and rich history have always felt neglected and deprived and have been demanding a separate state within the constitutional framework of India since 1907. They have raised the issues of how their resources including tea, cinchona, forest, water and biodiversity have been exploitatively harnessed by the Bengal Government without extending them any major development benefits. They have highlighted issues of identity and culture and gradual uprooting of the indigenous people from areas like Siliguri by the steadily increasing large-scale migration from Bangladesh.
The setting up of a new politico-administrative units in the forms of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration  (GTA) and their poor functioning in the last 30 years has further confirmed their fear that the State Government is consciously neglecting them and that they have been kept out of the mainstream development process.
Chronology of demands made by the Gorkhas may be summarized as under:
YearOrganisation /PartyPrimary Demand
1907Leaders of the Hill MenSeparate administrative set up
1917, 1929Representatives of the Darjeeling districtCreation of a separate unit of Darjeeling & dooars of Jalpaiguri or the creation of NEFP consisting of Darjeeling, dooars, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh
1930Hill People’s AssociationExclusion from Bengal and be treated as an independent administrative unit with DC as an administrator with much more power than the DM along with the executive council for assistance of the administration
1934All India Gorkha LeagueInclusion of Darjeeling and the dooars of Jalpaiguri in the province of Assam
1947Communist Party of India, District Committee, Darjeeling.‘Gorkhasthan’:  A separate nation comprising of Nepal, Darjeeling district and Sikkim excluding the present north district  
1949All India Gorkha League  ‘Uttarakhand’ which could be formed on the following areas: Darjeeling, Sikkim, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar or Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar or Darjeeling district and Sikkim or Darjeeling district alone
1954, 1957, 1967, 1968All India Gorkha League  Regional Autonomy- Autonomous administrative set up of Darjeeling and neighbouring districts with Nepali speaking people in majority.
1980-88Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)Separate state of Gorkhaland comprising of Darjeeling district and the dooars region of the Jalpaiguri District
2005Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)Inclusion of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) under Sixth Schedule of the India Constitution.
2007-11, 2013Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJMM)Separate state of Gorkhaland comprising of Darjeeling district and the dooars region of the Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Districts
2017Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, entire Indian Gorkha Community and Global Gorkha DiasporaSeparate state of Gorkhaland comprising of Darjeeling district and the dooars region of the Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Districts
It is, therefore, clear to assert that the district of Darjeeling and Dooars had been kept outside the purview of general administration and that it remained more or less isolated throughout the greater part of British rule in India.  One can, also, safely assert that throughout the British rule the rulers on any occasion never allowed the district of Darjeeling to come within the national mainstream and within the purview of the general administration.
Considering the political and administrative history of Darjeeling-Duars, one often wonders why this region has been kept within the administrative preview of West Bengal in the first place?
In this connection, it is important for the larger public to understand that among other relevant factors for the state re-organisation, State Reorganization Commission considered language & culture and financial viability important. However, both of these factors were overlooked and Darjeeling-Duars was merged into West Bengal with high level of politics played by BC Roy and the then congress party [see Politics of Autonomy: Indian Experiences (2005) edited by Ranabir Samaddar].
The region was merged into West Bengal without any consultation with the Gorkhas, Adibasis and other people living in the area during early 1950s and against the will of the larger population residing in the region.
Absorbed Area Act (1954) also sheds light on the issues of the absorption of Darjeeling district in the West Bengal. There was also a very strong lobby to form a state called ‘Uttarakhand’ consisting of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch-behar that eventually did not fructify.
Therefore, the very idea that Darjeeling-Duars being an integral part of West Bengal and the fake cry of ‘banga bhanga hobena’ often publicized by Bengalis and Bengal Government has no teeth. It is unfounded, illogical and just an emotional ‘rhetoric’. BC Roy and his team treacherously merged the region into West Bengal without consulting the vulnerable, gullible, peace loving Gorkhas, Rajbanshis and Adibasis in the 1950s.
The Gorkhas, Adivasis and Rajbanshis now want to de-merge the region from West Bengal and have our own governance.
A permanent political solution – in the form of a State or Union Territory would indeed go a long way in rectifying the historic wrong.
Via The DC
 
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