Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Saturday said that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is an internal matter of India and Bangladesh has nothing to worry about it. But we wonder how realistic is this remark when the NRC is in fact aiming to single out foreigners (read Bangladeshis). Momen also referred to Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar's remarks during his recent Bangladesh visit.
However, our foreign minister failed to notice that on the other side of the border it is not only a career diplomat turned foreign minister talking about it. From influential ministers to ruling party leaders, they are referring to Bangladesh every now and then. Our foreign minister is supposed to be aware of these comments.
The NRC is a complicated issue. When the Rajiv Gandhi government bowed before the Assam Students Union in the 1980s, the movement was aimed at the Bangalees. Now, it is against the Bangalee Muslims.
The first list had excluded 4 million people, but the new one has left only 1.9 million people out. However, this new list is not error-free either. They have failed to include family members of former Indian president, lawmakers and law enforcement officials, even people fighting in the Kargil war.
People excluded from the list may appeal to the Foreigners' Council. If they are not happy with the rule, they may go to the High Court or the Supreme Court. India's external affairs ministry has said that no one will be arrested and they will be entitled to all the basic rights till the legal procedures are completed. But the question remains, what will happen to people who lose their citizenship in the end?
If someone enters a country without valid documents, that nation can bring him to book. Any state in this world can do that and the rest of the world can do nothing about it. However, making a list of citizens with a view to excluding some people and drive them to a neighboring country is sheer violation of one's human rights. If a big number of people in a state next to our border suddenly become stateless, Bangladesh will certainly be affected. And it becomes even more certain when we hear what the Indian political leaders are saying. Our national security can be at risk.
Two years back, around 750,000 Rohingyas crossed the Myanmar border amid army atrocities in the Rakhine state. Deprived of the basic human rights, they have been driven away by Myanmar and Bangladesh gave them shelter on humanitarian grounds. Sadly, Bangladesh did not get India and China beside her while dealing with this crisis. How can we remain indifferent with this new NRC then? Bangladesh needs to act, especially on the diplomatic front.
Indian policymakers very often say that the diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and India are at its best nowadays. However, the Teesta water sharing issue still remains resolved. As a big neighboring country, India should take steps to drive away our concerns.