ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Discourse of Doubt

Understanding the Crisis of Citizenship in Assam

Discourse of Doubt

The citizenship crisis in Assam is unfolding through two major mechanisms, namely the National Register of Citizens and the “Doubtful voter” (D-voter). While the NRC has attracted much of the public attention, the process of categorising D-voters is largely functioning in a silent manner and has caused unprecedented damage to the lives and livelihoods of millions of marginalised people of the state. The D-voter is a political tool solely based on baseless doubts and is used by the government to deprive lakhs of marginalised people of a series of constitutional, political and social rights, including the right to vote.

In the Goalpara district of western Assam, on 30 June 2017, some of the local people were leading a protest march. The protesters were able to march only a few hundred metres before they faced a blockade by a group of armed police and jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). While the protesters were peaceful, the police, without asking any questions, forcibly snatched the main banner from the protestors, held the collars of a few protesters, and then enquired whether they had any permission to hold the protest. In response to this, one of the protestors replied that they had informed the administration. On hearing this, the police started beating the people brutally. Following this, the mob of protestors got dispersed. However, a small group of people got back together and started pelting stones at the police. At that moment, the police opened fire promptly on the unarmed protestors, which resulted in the death of a young man. Herein, the police without adhering to the procedures of the rules of engagement to disperse the mob such as blank-fire, use of rubber bullets and tear gas, etc,1 directly shot a person dead.

The protest on 30 June 2017 was organised against the long-standing atrocities unleashed on the people of the state, especially on the minorities, through a state-constructed mechanism called “Doubtful voter” (D-voter). Under this phenomenon of categorically marking the people as D-voters, the identity of lakhs of people in Assam has been jeopardised, thereby acutely affecting their survival in the state. This has brought forth a crisis of the citizenship of the minorities in the state. Therefore, the article attempts to discuss the oppressive structure of the D-voter category and how this mechanism has impinged the lives and livelihood of a large number of people in Assam.

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Updated On : 8th Mar, 2019

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