Indian home minister calls for national register to weed out illegal migrants

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized the need to weed out those who have been living in the country illegally. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Indian home minister calls for national register to weed out illegal migrants

  • I firmly believe that there is not a single country where anyone can just go and settle: Indian Home Minister Amit Shah

NEW DELHI: India wants to extend a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the whole country in an attempt to identify illegal residents in the country.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized the need to weed out those who have been living in the country illegally.

Participating in a discussion in New Delhi on Thursday, Shah said: “We had promised to the people of the country in our election manifesto that we will introduce the NRC not only in Assam but all over the country and make a register of the country’s people. For others (illegal immigrants) action would be taken as per law,” said Shah, who is considered to be the most powerful minister in Narendra Modi’s Cabinet.

“I believe that the people have given their views in 2019 general elections because I myself raised this issue,” said Shah.

The home minister added: “I firmly believe that there is not a single country where anyone can just go and settle. I ask you, can you go and settle in America? No, you cannot settle. Then how can someone else can settle in India. It is very simple to understand.”

India’s northeastern state of Assam implemented a register and released the final list of citizens on Aug. 31. More than 1.9 million people were found to be stateless citizens in the state.

The exercise, which took more than five years, was mired in controversy, with Muslim minorities blaming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for targeting them and deliberately leaving out their names from the final list. A Delhi-based civil society group United Against Hate in its fact-finding report this week found that the whole NRC exercise was faulty and “it’s only purpose was to declare as many Muslims foreigners as possible.”

Muslims also feel left out because the Citizenship Amendment Bill that the BJP has promised to bring to Parliament promises to give citizenship to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, whose names are missing from the NRC, but no such promise has been made to the minority community.

“Muslims in Assam whose names are missing from the list are really worried about their fate but no such anxiety can be seen on the faces of Hindus. The reason is that Hindus feel that the government will bail them out through the Citizenship Amendment Bill,” said Nadeem Khan of United Against Hate.

After the release of the NRC list in Assam a call to introduce a similar exercise has been made by other BJP-ruled states such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, where sizable Muslim populations live. 

The BJP is also demanding that a similar exercise should be held in the state of West Bengal.

“We don’t need NRC in West Bengal,” said the Mamta Bannerjee, the chief Minister of the state and the leader of the regional party, Trinamool Congress (TMC).

She asserted that the “NRC is nothing but an attempt to divert the attention of the people from the ongoing economic crisis in the country.”

She met Amit Shah in New Delhi on Thursday and said that “I raised the issue of NRC with the home minister. Lives of people are now uncertain in Assam. Several Hindi, Bengali and Gurkhali speaking people have been left out of the NRC in Assam.”

Dr. Afroz Alam, a political scientist of Hyderabad-based National Urdu University, says that “the problem is not with the idea of the NRC but the intention and implication of the preparation of a citizenship list.”

Alam told Arab News: “The politics is how to sensationalize the idea of NRC so as to create a fear psychosis among the targeted community so that electoral dividends can be reaped out from it.” 

Alam said: “This is a populist measure to polarize the voters by targeting a particular minority community.”

The political analyst said: “By bringing in Citizenship Amendment Bill the BJP is making it clear who is the target of the whole NRC exercise.”

Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde said: “The NRC is a bad idea. This is antithetical to pluralistic and secular spirit of the country. It can affect the unity and integrity of India.”


UK, EU reach tentative Brexit deal; still needs ratification

Updated 19 min 41 sec ago

UK, EU reach tentative Brexit deal; still needs ratification

  • The key hurdle to a Brexit deal was finding a way to keep goods and people flowing freely across the border between EU member Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland after Brexit
  • Johnson insists that all of the UK — including Northern Ireland — must leave the bloc’s customs union, which would seem to make border checks and tariffs inevitable

BRUSSELS: Britain and the European Union finally reached a new tentative Brexit deal on Thursday, hoping to escape the acrimony, divisions and frustration of their three-year divorce battle. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson now faces the Herculean task of selling the accord to his recalcitrant parliament — including his allies in Northern Ireland.

Johnson urged parliament to back the Brexit deal he has agreed with EU leaders, after it drew criticism from many MPs.

Standing alongside European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, Johnson said: "I hope very much now that my fellow MPs in Westminster do now come together to get Brexit done to get this excellent deal over the line."

British lawmakers on Thursday voted narrowly in favour of holding the first parliamentary session on a Saturday in 37 years, to debate the government's new Brexit deal.
Members of the lower chamber House of Commons voted 287 to 275 in favour. It would only be parliament's fifth Saturday session since the eve of World War II.
Only hours before Brussels hosted a summit of the bloc’s 28 national leaders, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: “We have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.”
Johnson tweeted that the two sides had struck a “great new deal” and urged UK lawmakers to ratify it in a special session being held Saturday — only the first time since 1982 that British lawmakers have been at work on that day.
“This is a deal which allows us to get Brexit done and leave the EU in two weeks’ time,” Johnson tweeted.

Sterling sank into losses in chaotic trade on Thursday on fears that Britain's Brexit draft deal might not win parliamentary approval, having earlier spiked close to $1.30 on news of the agreement.
At 1240 GMT, the pound was down 0.34 percent against the dollar at $1.2788. The euro meanwhile rose 0.69 percent to 86.88 pence.
Immediately complicating matters was Johnson’s Northern Irish government allies, which didn’t waste a minute before announcing they could not back the tentative Brexit deal because of the way it handled the Irish border.
Johnson, however, needs all the support he can get to push any Brexit deal past a deeply divided Parliament and that knowledge tempered jubilation at the EU summit. The UK Parliament already rejected a previous Brexit deal crafted by former British Prime Minister Theresa May three times.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has been through this scenario before.
“We have this history. That is why my mountaineering temperament keeps me careful and cautious,” said Barnier, who hails from the French Alps and organized the 1992 Olympic Winter Games there.
Barnier was in the room when the leaders called each other and said Johnson “told President Juncker this morning that he believed he was able to get the deal approved,” adding Johnson said he was “confident about his capacity to convince a majority.”
The agreement must still be formally approved by the bloc and ratified by the European Parliament.
The key hurdle to a Brexit deal was finding a way to keep goods and people flowing freely across the border between EU member Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland after Brexit. That invisible, open border has underpinned the region’s peace accord and allowed the economies of both Ireland and Northern Ireland to grow.
Johnson insists that all of the UK — including Northern Ireland — must leave the bloc’s customs union, which would seem to make border checks and tariffs inevitable.
But Barnier said the deal “squares this circle” by leaving Northern Ireland inside the EU single market for goods — so border checks are not needed — and also eliminating customs checks at the Irish border. Instead, customs checks will be carried out and tariffs levied on goods entering Northern Ireland that are destined for the EU.
That effectively means a customs border in the Irish Sea — something the British government long said it would not allow and something Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party vehemently opposes.
DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party’s parliamentary chief Nigel Dodds said they “could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues,” referring to a say the Northern Irish authorities might have in future developments on the border.
The party said their position was unchanged after the announcement of the provisional deal.
But the EU has compromised, too, by allowing Northern Ireland special access to its single market. And the deal gives Northern Ireland a say over the rules, something that was missing from May’s previous rejected agreement. After four years, the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on whether to continue the arrangement or end it.
Johnson — who took office in July vowing that Britain would finally leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal — on Wednesday likened Brexit to climbing Mount Everest.
Legislator Bim Afolami quoted the prime minister as saying “the summit is in sight, but it is shrouded in cloud. But we can get there.”