The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka has announced plans to introduce the National Citizens Register (NRC) in the state to identify undocumented foreigners, particularly from Bangladesh.
Speaking to the media on Thursday (October 3), state home minister Basavaraj Bommai revealed that he has already convened two meetings of senior bureaucrats in which they were instructed to study how the NRC project is being implemented in Assam where 1.9 million people have been excluded from the citizens’ register.
Bommai’s announcement came just two days after his party colleague and union home minister Amit Shah visited West Bengal and said that the centre would compile NRC lists across the country. Shah said that in order to neutralize resistance to the project from state governments, the centre would first pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill that will accord naturalized citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist refugees.
“Karnataka is one of the states where large numbers of people from other parts of the country and from across the border have settled down in Bengaluru and other large cities. Importantly, it has come to our notice that many of these people are indulging in criminal activities,” Bommai said.
Bommai’s announcement is just the latest development in the story. The state government, following orders of the central home ministry, has already built a detention centre to hold illegal foreigners in the outskirts of the state capital.
The detention centre is weeks away from being inaugurated. It will make Karnataka the the second Indian state, after Assam, to have such an exclusive facility to hold people declared as illegal foreigners by the courts.
Interestingly, the idea of the detention centre, which was first mooted by Bengaluru MP P C Mohan, was actively supported by Congress leaders in the state, particularly former home minsters G Parameshwar and Ramalinga Reddy.
Even as opposition leaders remained mum on the latest announcement by Bommai, the lone voice of dissent came from Janata Dal (Secular) leader Tanveer Ahmed who said that the government should focus on bigger issues such as the flood in north Karnataka.
Speaking to The Federal, lawyer Darshana Mitra said there is no legal way to implement the NRC outside Assam. “The NRC in Assam has a specific historical context. It is the result of the Assam accord. There is no such context in Karnataka,” she said Mitra who is the founding member of Parichay (identity) a collaborative legal aid clinic for people excluded from the NRC launched by national law schools across the country.
Arguing that arbitrary striping of a person’s citizenship is not legally tenable, Mitra described the BJP’s policies as “communally motivated”.
Bangladeshi labourers perform some of the most menial tasks in and around Bengaluru. A majority of them are employed as manual scavengers in the garbage segregation industry and work in unsanitary conditions without the protection of labour laws.