Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai issued a statement on Thursday, October 3, declaring that the state is keen on implementing the National Register of Citizens. Speaking to reporters, he said, “We are one of the states where people from across the border have come and settled down. We are discussing the issue with the Union Home Ministry and will take a call.” The Home Minister’s statement comes amid a plethora of issues plaguing Karnataka, from the growing unrest among the people in the flood affected regions due to the lack of help from both the central and the state governments; the unrest among unemployed youth; a general unrest regarding the weakening of labour laws, public health and education. The Bharatiya Janata Party government led by B S Yeddyurappa has, however, found a recourse in the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Interestingly, whenever there is a crisis, the BJP government uses a “divine” weapon that they have designed to shield themselves from the wrath of the same people who have voted for them- communal polarisation. Earlier on October 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah addressing a political rally in Kolkata said, “I want to assure all Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian refugees that you will not be forced to leave India by the Centre. Don’t believe rumours. Before NRC, we will bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which will ensure these people get Indian citizenship”. Shah made it explicit through his statement that the intention of the government is to keep the Muslims out. First the CAB will be brought in, and as Shah notes, all migrants/refugees but Muslims would be given citizenship. Then through NRC, Muslims would be excluded from the privileges of a citizen. As senior journalist Siddharath Varadarajan writes in The Wire, “The fact is that all this talk of refugees and immigrants is classic dog whistle politics, and is an integral part of the Modi government’s overarching strategy of dividing the Indian people on the basis of religion.”
Also read: Another Karnataka BJP Minister Gives Communal Speech, Calls Muslim Votes ‘Irrelevant’
As mentioned earlier, this strategy serves as an armour to the Modi government. A discourse that Muslims are the main source of problems faced by the country has been planted and spread by using media/social media. This in turn has made people in this country believe that anything done by the government to harm Muslims is concerned with the larger good of the nation. This is why NRC will come after CAB, which the Home Minister himself has said on many occasions, to keep the Muslim “infiltrators” out.
Policy of Distraction
The BJP believes in distracting the people in this country from issues like unemployment, economic slowdown, poverty, depleting education and health standards, which would make them question the government’s incapabilities. This is exactly what the Yeddyurappa government is trying to do.
The recent floods in Karnataka are touted to have caused losses to the tune of Rs. 50,000 crore and around 103 taluks in 22 districts have been badly hit with over 6.9 lakh hectares of crop loss. Around 75,317 houses have been damaged due to the rains. However, so far, the state has only got help by way of NDRF (National Disaster Response Force), Air Force and Army assistance during heavy rains, landslides and flooding. The New Indian Express reported that the state government has now decided to shell out Rs 1,500 crore from its own pocket. The estimated loss caused by this flood is Rs. 35,000 crore.
Also read: Karnataka Government Forced to Shell Out its Own Money as Flood Relief
In the absence of any aid from the Centre, it is being said that the state government is planning to use unspent funds from various departments, including from under the Schedule Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) sub-plan for relief and rehabilitation measures. Earlier too, the former government under H D Kumaraswamy had sought a total of Rs. 2,434 crore last year as drought relief. Following this, Union Home Minister Amit Shah in August this year had approved only Rs 1,029.39 crore additional funds to Karnataka under National Disaster Management funds for drought relief. It is reported that the Yeddyurappa government is going to utilise Rs 338 crore from budgetary annual grants to Karnataka State Disaster Relief Fund.
This is not the first time that the central government is not releasing funds. Karnataka had sought for a total of Rs. 2,000 crore as relief fund for the floods in 2018, for which the central government had released just Rs. 546.21 crore. With this negligence by the central government and the state government, the plight of the flood affected remain unattended.
Also Read: Politics and Ramifications of the NRC in Assam
There is a growing unrest against the Yeddyurappa government in the state. People are fed up with his incapability to convince the Narendra Modi government to release funds for the state. As the government was formed after toppling a ruling government by horsetrading the MLAs from that government, it cannot be sure of its stability. Nothing is certain for them now in the state. They have only 105 MLAs and are relying on the by polls and those 17 MLAs who defected from the previous government. Meanwhile, the latter's fate is dependent on the Supreme Court’s judgement- if the Court rules they are to remain disqualified, then they might cause a problem for the current government.
So, at a time when the state government is going through a crisis, it is not surprising that the state Home Minister makes a statement regarding implementation of NRC in the state. When the minister says NRC, he, of course, means what the Shah-Modi’s BJP means—an NRC after CAB, ensuring the exclusion of Muslims. There already exist a rhetoric that the immigrants have taken up the state and Bengaluru. Hindu fundamental organisations such as Sri Rama Sene in the state have been talking about this in all their gatherings. In a recent meeting, Pramod Mutalik, the chief of Sri Rama Sene had said Muslims are being given “undue” importance in the state.
Also Read: Life After NRC: How to Control Hindu Rashtra Fantasies
Mutalik accused Congress leader Jamir Ahmed Khan of letting 25,000 illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants settle in Chamarajpet of Bangalore. He also said that these “illegal immigrants” have been given identity cards. Reflecting the main agenda of the Hindutva organisations, gau raksha (cow protection), Mutalik accused Khan of granting licence to 150 butchering shops illegally. He said Sri Rama Sene will protest this and “will make Jamir Ahmed Khan pee in his pants”.