Gorkhas and their identity concern: Role of NRC and CAA

Author:- Anu Priya

If anyone tells you he is never afraid, He is a liar or he is a Gurkha

-Sam Manekshaw (1st field Marshall)

Introduction

Devotion, Dedication, courage for the country is the integration quality of a Soldier however, once it complies with extraordinary bravery, confidence and undefeatable capability, this is the inherent personality of Gorkha. Their loyalty toward their duty and country is unquestionable, either its 1962 India Pakistan war, 1965 war or 1971 India China war or 1999 Kargil war[1]. East Monte cassino to west Rangoon is evidence of their irresistible diligence and sheer tenacity[2]. But when the child serves her mother India with his life and deprives him of being called her child, this is betrayal[3].

This discrimination cries and evolves into agitation. After the fallout of NRC to acknowledge them as a citizen, CAA evolves with broken hope. One who lost their lives for the safety of country citizen sacrifices their breath and family for protection of our families. Now, this isn’t our responsibility to take care of their sacrifices and their family. Gorkhas were awarded different honours of Victoria cross, Mahavir Chakra, Param veer chakra, military cross[4] and others. Providing honours don’t seem to be enough to fulfil the needs of a family who gave their father, brother or son for India’s service. The Country is already in debt for their remarkable services, depriving its legacy of being called Indian citizen is a stigma.

Gorkhas in India

After the Tripartite agreement between Britain, Nepal and India battalion of Gurkha became an integral part of the Indian Army[5]. Their involvement can be traced to every military campaign. Currently, India consists of 32,000 Gurkha solider in 40 battalions that make up 7 Regiments[6]. The Gorkha’s regiment centre is at Lucknow, Varanasi, Sabathu, Happy valley and others. A larger no. of Gorkhas resides in Manipur, Arunachal, Bengal, Sikkim and others. Where Sikkim contain the majority density of Gorkha population among all[7].

History of their residence in India

Based on origin Gorkhas can be identified into two groups i.e., people of Nepal who belong to Gorkha hill 60 km away from Kathmandu[8] and other is ethnic Nepali of Indian Nationality. Indian Nationality Gorkhas- During the British era after winning the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1815. Britishers being influence by their war tactics, recruited them in their battalion. Soldiers in the Gorkha corps are transferred to Assam for the 1st time when the British annexed Assam in1826.[9]  Some of them were transferred to the regions of Assam as a labourer, tea plantation workers etc. Gorkhas in that state are their children.

Assam Accord-

The number of migrations rapidly increased in eastern states during raise of 1971 war in Bangladesh[10]. This is how Bengali culture introduced in the regions of Assam, the fear of vanish and dissolution of local culture and traditions of local tribal became a matter of concern. This gradually develops into the 1978 movement and this agitation against infiltrators in Assam results in the horrific violence of 1983. As the consequences of this violence around 2000 people died[11]. The government of India with the purpose to degrade violence and restore peace, negotiated for settlement and this settlement was a tripartite agreement between the government of India, the State Government of Assam and leaders of the Assam movement (AASU), this agreement is known as Assam Accord on August 15, 1985. The two major dates Assam Accord consists are of 1st Jan 1966 and 24 March 1971.

Under clause 5[12] of the Assam Accord, it deals with Foreigners Issue i.e., migrants who came to Assam before 1st Jan 1966 were provided with every right including rights of citizenship. 1st Jan1966- 24 March 1971- migrants who came in between are shall be dealt with Foreigners Act 1946, and the name of those foreigners shall be deleted from the electoral roll for the next 10 years, but not expelled from Assam. Those who prefer to stay shall undergo registration provisions of the Foreigners act, 1939 and wait for 10 years. There shall be restored to the electoral roll and provided every right including the right to vote.

25th March 1971- foreigners who came to Assam after midnight of 24th March 1971, shall be expelled by Law.

Section 6 of the Assam accord[13] deals with the protection and preservation of the heritage of the Assamese people. One might think this is the end of clashes but this is the rise of struggle and conflict. The task of categorizing the huge number of people was very challenging and the government irresponsible failure to implement it. In 2013, the Supreme court finally got involved and recommended the government for the speedy process[14]and updating the national register of citizen (NRC) which was earlier introduced based on the 1951 census. This decision of the supreme court to update NRC brought hope in Gorkhas and other Nepalis in India[15]. Gorkhas of India who suffered for identity and perceived as a foreigner, this is natural for them to expect relief from NRC. However, the News report relived that an estimate of 1lakh Gorkhas was excluded from the final draft of NRC[16]. The Assam state coordinator appealed in the Supreme court for time-bound re-verification of NRC, this might result in something fruitful [17].

NRC and its conflicts

The National Register of Citizen is a record of citizens of India avoiding and deport infiltrators and illegal immigrants in the country. NRC is created through the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 2003.

The major conflict arises with the fear of NRC among the citizen of India that if in case their name won’t be recognized they will be deported to the detention camps[18].

The question arises on the fairness of NRC because people whose name recognized took a heavy breath but their families names weren’t there. The government gave assurance for the protection of their rights and correcting the fallouts. Peoples are predicting and waiting for their next move.

Gorkhas were not apart from it, in complementary to it they were already facing discrimination and presumed as foreigners. One of the major reasons is the India and Nepal Treaty of peace and friendship.[19]Article 7 of this treaty grants reciprocal rights to the citizen in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and other similar rights. This creates confusion between the identity of Indian Gorkhas from other Nepali citizens and this also resist maintaining the record of immigrants from Nepal. India Gorkha does hereby experience allegations and has been called moist, even doubtfully alleged for acquired documents by forgery [20]. Their wail echoed all around when it gradually takes shape of bloodshed enmity. The ethic-based enmity became wider in the eastern range and results in brutally killing Gorkhas and other Nepalis. People won’t even agitate in burning alive Gorkhas.[21]This inhuman attitude and discrimination compel them to demand different place to live peacefully i.e., Gorkhaland [22].

CAA and its conflict

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. This Act is the amended form of citizenship Act,1955. It grants citizenship to the people of India based on birth, naturalization, registration, descent, acquisition etc. The amended Act, provide citizenship to those Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, Jain, Christian from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who faced persecution and settled in India for shelter[23]. The cut-off date set for immigrants for being eligible for citizenship is 31st December 2014, if they satisfy the provision of sec5 of the Indian Citizenship Act. This Act makes it easier for non-Muslims immigrants to get citizenship in India. It declines the duration of residence in India from 11 to 5 for being a citizen[24].

Why protest-

  1. In the northeast people are afraid of the rush of the immigrant will alter their demographic linguist and cultural uniqueness[25].
  2. Northeast people alleged that this will divide people based on religion. This Act is in contravention of Article 14 ethos of the constitution.
  3. It further discriminates Muslim’s from citizenship benefit.

This is only applicable for immigrants of Pakistan and Afghanistan and Bangladesh and it discriminates against immigrants who faced persecution from Sri Lanka, Bhutan etc. The Act exempted tribal areas covered under the 6th schedule of the Constitution which covers some parts of Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and others in its ambit creates regional imparity. There will be no uniform application throughout the state.

Gorkhas’ Agitation against CAA

  1. It violates the provision of the Assam Accord.
  2. Zillions of illegal immigrants are there in Assam and the government agreed to protect the customs of Assamese, providing rights to illegal immigrants will endanger their unique culture.
  3. Providing identity under CAA, after being declared foreigners through NRC are unacceptable to Indian Gorkhas.
  4. West Bengal highly resists it after seeing its consequences in Assam, alleged lakhs of Gorkhas have been rendered homeless[26]
  5. Gorkhas demand protection of their culture and tradition as their culture is unique and endangerment of its extinction is common[27].
  6. Gorkhas satisfy the condition of the Assam Accord i.e., they came before 1971 but NRC fails to provide them citizenship.
  7. Gorkhas are already suffering poverty and disregarded benefits and identity, Now declaring them foreigners through the fallout of NRC and left them homeless, is major default on the part of the law maker[28].
  8. Gorkhas don’t want assurance they need execution for the protection of their community as an Indian citizen.
  9. the Gorkha community of Assam, including Assam Gorkha Sammelan, the state unit of the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangha and the state unit of the Bharatiya Gorkha Mahila Parisangha (BhaGoMaP), came together and demands complete exemption of CAA in Assam.[29]

Conclusion

India being a secular state, provides equals rights to every community. It preserves and also provides special provisions to the minorities for the protection of their rights. Schedule 6 of the Indian Constitution safeguards the rights of the tribal population in the area of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Mizoram. Gorkhas belong to minority groups, the government shall take a step for the preservation of their rights including cultural, social and economic rights. There should complete distinction between Indian Gorkhas and Nepali Gorkhas to avoid chaos. The Gorkhas are tribal people and suffers from poverty. The legal process to acquire citizenship is not possible for them. There are more than 1.4 lakh cases that are already pending the foreign tribunals of Assam[30]. One should serve entire life to pass through it. This needs to be shorted and there shall be a speedy process for those who became subject to the fallout of NRC.


Author Anu Priya is pursuing BA-LLB from Kalinga University


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