Modi’s outburst on detention centres, NRC is factually incorrect, deliberately or by default
After his ‘identify them by clothes’ gaffe in Jharkhand which may have ultimately cost him loss of credibility as well as votes for BJP, prime minister Narendra Modi while labouring to capture his lost ground in Delhi in run up to the state elections has turned to perpetuating myths, if not brazen lies, about Citizen Amendment and the National Register of Citizens. Making several references to the contentious CAA and the NRC, he mocked at the protestors, calling them ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘urban naxals’ who wanted to bring him down and averred that no Indian Muslims are being sent to detention centres and neither are there any detention centres in this country.

Either the prime minister was misleading the nation or was mislead himself. The case of the detention centres existing in Assam are already well documented. The government is in the process of constructing India’s largest detention centre, 22 km from Guwahati in Assam is the size of seven football stadiums and can house 3,000 detenues.

According to some reports, six detention centres are existing in Assam already. This is no secret but has been admitted officially as well. In November 2019, according to the government, as many as 28 had died either in such detention centres or in hospitals, where they were referred. Speaking on the floor of Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home Nityanand Rai said that “988 foreigners were lodged in six detention centres in Assam.” Whether the prime minister was lying, which does not behove his position, or was ignorant of the reality of detention centres, he did not appear to be well-informed about the NRC either. An abject denial that his government has had not discussion on NRC since 2014 is way off the mark. In the recent parliament session, in response to a question by Rajya Sabha BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta, the union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the NRC exercise would be carried out across India. He said that the gazette notification of September 7, 2015, which was made in the case of Assam, would be applicable to rest of India as well. The Prime Minister’s remarks on the nationwide NRC are in absolute contradiction of what the Home Minister has been saying on the issue. Even more recently, Amit Shah had said in a rally in Jharkhand that NRC will be implemented across the country and all infiltrators identified and expelled before 2024 polls. Earlier, a tweet from BJP’s official handle also showed Home Minister Amit Shah ensuring the “implementation of NRC in the entire country.” Implementation of NRC nationwide in a phased manner is also mentioned in BJP’s 2019 manifesto.

Either Modi and Shah are not on the same page on the issue of NRC and detention centres or Modi is ill-informed. It is an even more serious an issue if the prime minister was bluffing and misleading the nation. The latter is more likely the case. The devious manner in which he sought to compare the CAA with former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s verbal assurance of giving any persecuted minority from other countries a chance to claim citizenship in India was yet another attempt to pull wool over the eyes of the masses. Unlike Modi government’s CAA that cherry-picks minorities from three countries and excludes singularly one community – Muslims, Manmohan Singh’s idea was based on humanitarian principles – neither country specific, nor religion specific. The question as to why the prime minister resorted to lying is evident from the manner in which ordinary Indians have horrifyingly responded to the combination of CAA and NRC, which are being seen as devious plots to alter the very secular fabric of the country and subvert the Indian constitution based on the principles of secularism and egalitarianism. The open rejection of the toxic politics of hate has unnerved the Modi government but the only options before the latter are either course correction or stepping down. By choosing to deceive the public, the BJP government is only digging its grave deeper.