Archives  >  2019  >  December  >  30th

The Cost of CAA

1. What’s the story?

As is evident, the country is not happy with the newly minted Citizenship (Amendment) Act. From Assam to Chennai, West Bengal to Maharashtra — citizens are up in arms against this legislature. Even though the Government has been doling out assurances, calling these fears mostly false, recent events have indicated otherwise. In Odisha, for example, “touts are having a field day as illiterate migrants scramble for documents to prove domicile status”, leading to utter chaos across the state.

Tell me more.

“Shabir Hossain, 39, has his tasks cut out for the day. Along with some of his acquaintances, he will visit the person who had promised to prepare documents for them and inquire into the status of the papers needed to prove that India has been their country of residence since before the cut-off date mandated by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. “It will take a lot of time,” the ragpicker and father of three says quietly.

In a slum in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar, which is home to hundreds of Muslim migrant families, like Shabir’s, scores of children are busy playing near a large cluster of dingy, muddy structures with polythene sheets serving as roofs, while others are sitting on tricycle rickshaws. One of them is Shabir’s son Imtiaz, long-haired, aged around 10 years.

In the sea side Hariabanka village under Kharinasi Panchayat of Mahakalapada block, 87-year-old Subodh Chandra Samanta was one of the earliest migrants to arrive in the area from Mahisagote in East Medinipur district of West Bengal in 1948.

Even though age seems to have had an impact on his memory, Subodh recalls that when he reached Hariabanka, the entire region was dense forest and while walking, they had to keep their eyes fixed on the ground to avoid snake or scorpion bites. “Only 120 families lived in this Panchayat then,” Samanta says. Today, its population has grown to over 12,000, with a majority of the inhabitants being from Bangladesh. According to the octogenarian, the process of immigration (both Hindus and Muslims) continues on a regular basis.

However, after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill got the Parliament and President’s nod, migrants went on an overdrive to procure as many documents possible to prove their domicile status. “In the process, they are being looted by touts, who charge hefty amounts. They can’t read and hence, would not know if the papers they receive have any authenticity or legal value,” a Bhubaneswar-based entrepreneur says, adding that the touts are “having a field day”.”

Chaos is not limited to Odisha alone. In Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of activists have been detained, Internet has been cut off in various parts of the state, and Section 144 imposed every week. In Delhi too, the police force has been on an overdrive, arresting people from different rallies and making it difficult for them to attain bail.

So, what now?

According to experts, these new legislatures by the Indian Government may “reopen wounds of Partition…”

“The Indian idea of citizenship – as embodied in the Constitution and the law – is in the throes of a profound and radical metamorphosis. The twin instruments of this transformation are the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act. If the former is carving out paths to statelessness for disfavoured groups, the latter is creating paths to citizenship for preferred groups. While the first is, despite the looming threat of its extension across India, presently limited to the state of Assam, the second is designed to be pan-Indian in its application.

In Assam alone, there is the ongoing construction of a large detention camp, with a capacity of 3,000 detainees, with ten others planned to fit a thousand people each. A detention centre in Nelamangala, near Bangalore, is being touted as a first in south India.”

Things are sure to get even more controversial, before they take a turn for the better. 

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Kashmir, that’s where. Even though the state has been virtually cut off since August, and still seems to be undergoing a profound economic and social crisis, there is a little bit of news to cheer about. 

“At a time when Kashmir’s forests face the axe and the government looks to demarcate land for investors from elsewhere in India in the wake of scrapping of semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, officials have told the National Green Tribunal that they will restore and preserve the 125-acre Kraeenchoo-Chandhara wetland in south Kashmir, bringing a bit of cheer to environmentalists.

The decision by the officials in the Himalayan region comes come in the wake of an NGT hearing on a petition on pollution and encroachment in three wetlands in Kashmir – Hokersar in Budgam, Wular Lake in Bandipora and Baramullah, and Kraeenchoo-Chandhara in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.”

3. What more?

In Jharkhand, Hemant Soren took his oath as Chief Minister this weekend — leading a newly minted cabinet. His first act after assuming power? Dropping all cases registered against people during the Pathalgadi movement in 2017-18 — a polarizing incident in the state’s history. 

The Pathalgadi movement began in 2017-18, when giant stone plaques came up outside villages in the district, declaring the gram sabha as the only sovereign authority. The plaques had inscriptions from the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled areas) Act or PESA, which the tribals quoted to claim their independence from the state and assert their rights and culture.

While the movement petered out, many villagers alleged they were subjected to “police brutality”, or what they called “state’s repression”. A total of 19 cases of sedition, among others, were registered against 172 people, out of which police had sought prosecution sanction against 96 accused.”

4. Anything else?

India is not the only country that seems to be struggling with minority relations. In China, even Muslim children are not spared

“The first-grader was a good student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why. 

“The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog. “When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.”

The mother, she noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl’s father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, authorities put her in a state-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China’s far western Xinjiang region.

As many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population’s devotion to Islam…”

5. Is that all?

In fascinating new research, a new project reveals “not just where birds live now — but where they will live decades from now.” It’s a field guide for the entire 21st Century.

““Survival by Degrees” is a kind of field guide for the 21st century—the entire 21st century—containing maps of not only where birds live now, but where they’ll live several decades from now. It is also a novel scientific project in its own right. After analyzing how 604 North American bird species will fare, it argues that climate change will push more than two-thirds of the continent’s birds toward extinction in the decades to come.

Like any good field guide, “Survival by Degrees” will teach everyone something slightly different. New Yorkers might see that piping plovers, a favorite shorebird, will vanish from much of the Atlantic Coast. The Baltimore oriole, meanwhile, will struggle to roost in some places near Camden Yards. And one of the country’s smallest songbirds, the golden-crowned kinglet, will be driven out of nearly its entire range in Oregon.

This kind of localization is possible because the underlying sources of data are immense. Audubon’s scientific team pulled together 140 million bird sightings across more than 70 different data sources, including the U.S. Geological Survey and Parks Canada. Some of the data came from Ebird, an online repository run by Cornell University that tracks bird sightings recorded by nonscientists. The team matched each of those observations with environmental data about the local climate: in effect, fitting a bird to its climatic range today. Then it used global climate models to project how those ranges could shift in the future. For example, “a lot of these areas in Wisconsin will look more like Kansas,” Brooke Bateman, the senior climate scientist at the Audubon Society, told me.” 

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at these pictures of more and more Americans seeking respite from a rapidly changing environment. Climate change is real, y’all. 

“Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the nation. For many Native communities, rising temperatures have led to thawing permafrost, aggressive erosion and flooding. In Newtok — a Yupik village of nearly 400 — the damage is beyond repair.

Clinging to the western edge of the vast Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the village was populated after the Bureau of Indian Affairs built a school in 1958. It was as far upriver as the barge carrying building supplies could travel.

In retrospect. Not far enough.

Rapid erosion has brought the Ninglick River to within yards of residents’ homes. Thawing permafrost has shifted structures off foundations, skewed power lines and damaged boardwalks that are the sole thoroughfare. Waste from portable toilets called honey buckets has been distributed across the landscape by recurrent flooding.”

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