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UP Govt Starts Identifying Refugees, Triggers Panic Among Muslims

Saurabh Sharma |
Instructions were given over phone, not in writing, to district magistrates of almost all districts on December 15, said top government sources.
UP Govt Starts Identifying Refugees, Triggers Panic Among Muslims

Image Courtesy: AFP

Lucknow: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh has started the process to identify refugees living in the state.

As per information accessed by Newsclick from highly placed government sources, state administrative officials in all districts have been asked to start the process of identifying refugees. 

As per sources, district magistrates of nearly every district in UP, excluding some in the far-east region, were given telephonic instructions on December 15 last to identify the refugees and prepare a report as soon as possible.

One such district magistrate posted in a central-west district confirmed to this reporter that he had received this instruction and was asked to produce his report within a fortnight. 

“My office received the information on December 15 last, and I immediately asked all my sub-district magistrates to identify them (refugees) and present a report to me. I do not know if this is related to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as the instruction was given to me over the telephone and nothing in writing was sent to my office. If it would have been in writing, then I would be able to comment on it,” he said on the condition of anonymity, adding, “I have made a report and the process of identifying the refugees has almost been completed.”

The district magistrate further added that his district had a large number of refugees who migrated to India from Bangladesh before the 1970s and now were a bit uncomfortable with the identification being done.

 “I have been approached by people twice or thrice in groups who requested me to tell them that it is not a part of NRC (National Register of Citizens). I told them that this was only done to identify the refugees. No one will be going anywhere, and everyone will live here. They looked a bit scared and tense, but I assured them that this is their India as much as it is mine,” the administrative official told Newsclick on an encrypted telephone line. 

Another district magistrate approached by Newsclick confirmed the t, adding that there was no panic and the move was only to give citizenship to the people who had migrated from other countries due to religious persecution. He denied to speak further, saying NRC and identification of refugees were two different issues and even asked this reporter to not make it a ‘communal’ issue, when he was questioned about the intent of government as Muslims had been excluded from CAA. 

Fear, Panic Over CAA-NRC

With the passing of CAA, panic has gripped the Muslim community in the state. Long queues of people have been seen in many districts for getting birth certificates. 

Shahrukh Khan, a resident of Hapur, says the minority community has been reeling under fear as there is a common perception that if they are not able to produce papers, they will be sent to detention centres, like in Assam. 

 “People as old as 80 can be seen standing in lines for getting their birth certificate made. If this is not fear, what else is it? Why are the elderly struggling to get certificates made?” Shahrukh asks. 

Masood Qadri, an elderly citizen from Lakhimpur Kheri district, says people are facing a lot of difficulties in getting birth certificates made.

“A birth certificate is the main paper to prove citizenship. Earlier, the municipal corporation was making birth certificates post-1947, but now they have stopped and are only making birth certificates post-1970. When we asked the officer concerned, he told us that this order had come from the higher authorities,” he says.

Qadri says his father was a government servant but “now we will have to prove it. We are poor people. If we go collecting papers, who will earn daily bread?”

Akram Khan of Basti says: “The Muslims of India chose to live in a secular nation. Why are people inclined to makd it a Hindu Pakistan. We Muslims of India love this country as much as any other person.”

“I am telling you the Muslim community will starve if the NRC is implemented in the state, because then they will engage in searching the papers and not work to earn money for feeding their kids,” he adds.

Meanwhile, state BJP spokesperson, Rakesh Tripathi, said Muslims of the state need not be scared of anything. “The CAA is related to granting citizenship to refugees and has nothing to do with the citizens of the country. There are people out there who are indulging in rumour- mongering and people need not believe them,” he said. 

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