Who’s really a citizen?

Trick question: what’s the world’s second biggest Muslim country?

If you said America, shame on you. Everyone (who’s reasonably informed) knows Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population; and coming second is India — even though Hindus are a large majority there.

Trump insists we should find out who, living in America, is really a citizen. Seem reasonable? And what’s India got to do with it?

Keep reading.

In India’s 2014 election, I endorsed Narendra Modi, despite blood on his hands from Gujarat’s anti-Muslim pogrom and his BJP party’s Hindu nationalism. He seemed to understand how India’s still very anti-business economic structures kept people poor. And he has done some good in that regard, though not nearly enough.* Meantime, though it may be too soon to quite give Modi the “authoritarian” label, he’s working on it.

Meantime too the Hindu nationalism has become increasingly central. This is bad. Recall some history: Pakistan was traditionally part of India, but was hived off at independence in 1947 to create a Muslim state. Many millions caught on the “wrong” side of the new border migrated — amid appalling bloodshed. But most Muslims stayed put, and their population in India exceeds Pakistan’s.

Given this background, you might think any Indian government would strive for intercommunal emollience, so Hindus and Muslims can live together equably. You would be rational. But religion never is, and India’s BJP government, under Modi, is doing the opposite. Trying to make Muslims second class citizens — if that.

Assam, an Indian state bordering (Muslim) Bangladesh, has a concentration of Muslims. Unsurprisingly, few Muslims vote for the BJP. Which would rather they didn’t vote at all. So now there’s a big push to find out how many are really proper Indian citizens.

Is this beginning to ring a bell?

They’ve created a “National Register of Citizens” (NRC). If your name’s not there, you’re summoned to a bureaucratic tribunal, with the burden of proving your citizenship. It’s mainly Muslims, of course, targeted for this. Realize it’s a region of endemic illiteracy and poverty, with public records something of a shambles. The Economist’s report headlined with the word “Madness” and invoked the ghost of Kafka. And get this: anyone can file an official objection to a name on the NRC. In Assam, 220,000 such poison letters were filed — all ostensibly by a very small group of objectors.

Failure to “prove” citizenship (to the government’s satisfaction) can put you in jail or in one of the archipelago of detention camps they’re building, for “foreigners.” Their fate is uncertain; they cannot be deported to Bangladesh, which won’t take them. But they will be stripped of citizenship rights — including the vote. Which seems to be the real point.

Now this Assam model is being extended to the whole country.

Back to Trump: insisting we must find out who’s really a citizen. If that may have sounded reasonable to you before, think about India, and what the long range Republican game plan is. They already have a despicable record of winning elections by denying the ballot to targeted groups through discriminatory voter ID laws. This citizenship gambit is the logical, and frightening, next step.

And Trump has now said some U.S.-born Congress members should “go back” to some other countries. Is the next step actually to declare them non-citizens (as India is doing)?

Can you prove you’re a U.S. citizen?

* And he did one economically terrible thing, demonetizing the bulk of India’s circulating currency.

 

One Response to “Who’s really a citizen?”

  1. joannereedauthor Says:

    At the top of a slippery slope?

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