Impact of the CAA and NRC on the Miya Muslim minority in Assam

  • Date and time: Wednesday 3 November 2021, 2pm
  • Location: In-person and online
    ARC/014, Alcuin Research Resource Centre, Campus West, University of York (Map)
  • Admission: Free admission

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Event details

Human rights defender and researcher Abdul Kalam Azad will discuss the impact of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the Miya Muslim minority in Assam, northeast India.

When Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, India was in turmoil over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019. The CAA offers fast-track citizenship to refugees from neighbouring countries who belong to certain religious minorities, but Muslims are not included in the list of these minorities, reflecting a form of religious profiling which is prohibited by the Indian Constitution.

The repercussions of the CAA are anticipated in light of the national register of citizens (NRC) which has been implemented in the state of Assam and nearly two million people have been put on the verge of statelessness. Home Minister Amit Shah’s infamous quote ‘Aap chronology samaj ligiye’ (‘Please understand the chronology’) gave more reasons to believe that under the amended citizenship law, Muslims in particular would face statelessness. This fear is not unfounded; there is a strong basis to anticipate that if the NRC is applied to the entire country, a large number of genuine citizens would be unable to prove their citizenship as happened in the case of the Assam NRC.

In Assam, there are two more parallel processes currently deployed to contest citizenship, namely the D-voters list, prepared by the Election Commission of India, and the Reference Case (RC) by the Assam Police Border Organization. These organizations together have contested the citizenship of more than two million people. There are 100 Foreigner Tribunals currently sitting in Assam to decide on cases of contested citizenship and have rendered more than 130,000 people as stateless. Once someone is declared as stateless, they are provisioned to be detained in one of six detention centres. Many of these detainees are kept captive for several years and several dozens of them have died inside the camps.

In the face of these violent processes, mechanisms and helplessness, the Miya Muslim community, which is the prime target of the citizenship contestation in Assam, is building resilience and agency to support the most vulnerable members of their community. The community is building their own support system, creating and facilitating a solidarity network to assist illiterate and semi-literate people to pass through extremely discriminatory and dehumanizing processes. They have also taken initiative to counter the dominant narrative through unique and powerful initiatives like the Miya Poetry movement in order to re-humanize their stories, achieve epistemic justice, and counter the dominant system of knowledge production.

About the speaker

Abdul Kalam Azad

Abdul Kalam Azad is a human rights researcher, writer and community mobilizer from the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Abdul is working on his PhD thesis “Understanding Statelessness and Resilience in Assam, India” at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and is currently based at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, UK, as a writing fellow.

Abdul previously worked with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati. Abdul has written extensively on the issues of statelessness and human rights abuses in the state of Assam for national and international media platforms, and he has given public lectures and talks at various universities, institutions and forums on similar topics. He has worked on several research projects on citizenship and statelessness in collaboration with academics from top universities around the world.

His recent co-authored monograph “BREAKING WORLDS: Religion, Law and Citizenship in Majoritarian India; The Story of Assam” is published by the University of California, Berkeley.