As BJP leaders raise rhetoric for need of 'nationwide' NRC, anxiety grips section of Mumbai's Muslim community

  • In Mumbai, according to local community leaders and social workers, many people have taken action to ensure that they have their identification documents in order

  • When asked whether he procured the document in order to be prepared in case an NRC-like exercise is conducted in Mumbai, a Mahim resident said, 'Yes, that was the reason.'

  • Remarks by political leaders aside, this anxiety also comes in the context of reports that the Maharashtra government has sought land in the Nerul area of Navi Mumbai to build a detention centre to house illegal immigrants

  • However, the state government's spokesperson Brijesh Singh has said that the request for land has no connection with the NRC, and that it is an old proposal

Following the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, several BJP leaders, including Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, have spoken about the need to the undertake a similar process in other states of the country. Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in August, had specifically said that there could be a "nationwide NRC exercise" taking place in two to three years' time.

In Mumbai, these statements have served to deepen anxieties among a section of the Muslim community. According to local community leaders and social workers, many people have taken action to ensure that they have their identification documents in order.

One of them is 79-year-old Khalick Shaikh, a resident of Mahim. Speaking to Firstpost, Shaikh said, "I have lived in this area since my birth in 1940. However, some of my official documents were completely damaged due to termites. So, recently, I contacted the institution where I had completed my school education, and got my school leaving certificate."

 As BJP leaders raise rhetoric for need of nationwide NRC, anxiety grips section of Mumbais Muslim community

Representational image. AFP

When asked whether he procured the document in order to be prepared in case an NRC-like exercise is conducted in Mumbai, he said, "Yes, that was the reason. If such an exercise is conducted, I might need the document, and so might my children (to prove that their parents are residents of Mumbai)." Shaikh added, "People, like me, are educated, socially aware, and know how to keep our documents in order. But what about people who don't have a proper house, are not educated, or do not know the year of their birth?"

In the eastern suburb of Chembur, Salim Khan runs the Humanity Group of Consultancies, which advises people on maintaining official documents. Khan said, "I have been working in this field for over ten years. When I started this work, there was no speculation about the NRC process being implemented across the country. However, of late, a lot of people have been coming to me with questions about the NRC. After all, chief ministers of many states have said that they plan to introduce the NRC process. It is better to be prepared before any such process begins."

Sajid Sheikh, a resident of Andheri said, "There certainly is a lot of anxiety among Muslims, and many are talking about the possibility that the NRC process may be undertaken in Maharashtra, as well. People are discussing the need to keep identification documents in order, and ensuring that there are no discrepancies in spellings, etc."

Sheikh further said, "Some political leaders have made statements that even such a process takes place, Hindus will not face any action. Such statements make it seem that the real objective of the exercise is only to cause trouble to Muslims."

Recently, journalist Rana Ayyub had tweeted:

Remarks by political leaders aside, this anxiety also comes in the context of reports that the Maharashtra government has sought land in the Nerul area of Navi Mumbai to build a detention centre to house illegal immigrants. The home department is said to have written to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) recently, seeking a 450-square meter plot for this purpose. However, the state government's spokesperson Brijesh Singh has said that the request for land has no connection with the NRC, and that it is an old proposal.

Irfan Machiwala, a social activist, said, "Some media reports have pointed to a nexus of agents and officials from both India and Bangladesh which is responsible for allowing illegal immigration to continue. This must be stopped, and the focus must be on ensuring that no more illegal immigrants from Bangladesh enter our country due to porous borders."

The final updated National Register of Citizens in Assam was published on 31 August, 2019. While the first draft had excluded about 40 lakh people from the list, this number was whittled down to 19 lakh in the final version. Himanta Biswa Sarma was subsequently quoted as saying that the actual figure of illegal immigrants according to the NRC will not exceed 6-7 lakh.

In the final list, apart from Muslims, a large number of Bengali Hindus and members of local communities had failed to find their names in the register.

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Updated Date: Sep 30, 2019 20:13:07 IST