Guwahati: Alleging that Muslims have been targeted in Assam and asked to prove their citizenship in the name of the recently published National Register of Citizens (NRC), leading Congresswoman from Minnesota IIhan Omar raised a debate in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Terming the present condition in Assam, which she said is as bad as Jammu and Kashmir, if not worst, Omar came down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre of trying to act against the interest of the Muslims.
“In Assam, more than two million people have been asked to formally prove their citizenship. There is official statement that no Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, or general refugees need to worry about their status. So, this is a clear anti-Muslim programme. The Indian government has started to build camps in Assam presumably to hold those who are unable to prove their citizenship. This is how the Rohingya genocide started,” Omar alleged.
At one point, do we no longer share values with India or we are waiting for the Muslims in Assam to be put in those camps, she questioned the House.
A subcommittee of the United States Congress on Tuesday held a hearing titled “Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region”. While the hearing was on human rights in the larger South Asian region, much of it was focused on the situation in the Kashmir valley following the abrogation of Article 370.
Omar has been critical of not just India’s decision to put Kashmir under severe restrictions, but also India’s roll-out of the NRC in Assam “which could potentially disenfranchise millions”. After the hearing, she tweeted, “Kashmiris have been restricted from communicating outside their country for 50+ days. In Assam, almost two million people are being asked to prove their citizenship. This is how the Rohingya genocide started. At what point, do we question whether PM Modi shares our values?”
Responding to her allegations, US acting assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia Alice G Wells said that the certification of citizenship in Assam dates to 2013 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the government to do so to address the question of illegal immigrations. The process continues to be challenged in court.
“Now, 1.9 million of people who have not been certified that include both Muslims and Hindus. There are 300 appeal panels have been set up for those individuals to appeal. Many individuals may not have wealth and education to successfully document their citizenship. We will be continuously watching it very closely. But I would like to stress that the appeal process is still open. The judicial process is still working in India. And as a democracy, we respect other democracies ability of self-regulate. So, this process is underway. Obviously, there will be a national attention on this NRC in Assam,” Wells added.
Reacting sharply to Wells’ response, Omar said that the fact that there are public statements having only Muslims prove their citizenship should be extremely alarming and the excuse that “we don’t please other’s democracies” is not been acceptable to this committee or acceptable to American people.
“We have to raise our concern. We do that in many situations; there should not be any exceptions to this problem as well,” she reiterated.
The 37-year-old Congresswoman from Minnesota has achieved celebrity status in the US since her election to the House of Representatives in January 2017. She is, along with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of two first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress. She is also a member of a group of four Congresswomen of colour known as “The Squad” (the other members are Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley).
Over 19 lakh people were excluded in the NRC, published on October 31, 2019 in Assam, out of a total of 3.29 crore people who applied for inclusion of their names in the final list.