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India's "nationalist populism" behind campaign in Assam against Bengali Muslims: UN official to Govt of India

By Our Representative
The United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Tendayi Achiume, in a new report to the UN General Assembly, has revealed that she has written a letter to the Government of India taking strong exception to "updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a process governed by local authorities in the state of Assam."
Written in May 2018, the letter, according to her, "drew attention to the heightened concerns of the Bengali Muslim minority, who have historically been portrayed as foreigners despite having lived in India for generations, even preceding the colonial era."
"Since 1997, the Election Commission of India has arbitrarily identified a large number of Bengali people as so -- called 'doubtful or disputed voters', resulting in their further disenfranchisement and the loss of entitlements to social protection as Indian citizens", she said in the letter.
"While many have affirmed that the updating process is generally committed to retaining Indian citizens on the NRC, concerned parties fear that local authorities in Assam, who are deemed to be particularly hostile towards Muslims and people of Bengali descent, may manipulate the verification system in an attempt to exclude many genuine Indian citizens from the updated Register", the special rapporteur quotes the letter as saying.
Suggesting that this is not an isolated incident in the world, Achiume says, "Nationalist populist parties" in several countries "have implemented administrative and other rules leading to the exclusion of minority groups from official citizen registries on the basis of claims that they are irregular migrants, notwithstanding evidence showing that they are entitled to citizenship."
Tendayi Achiume
"This in turn has led to statelessness, disenfranchisement and increased vulnerability to discrimination, including the denial of basic rights and access to public services such as health and education", she underlines.
Achiume says, "In her most recent report to the Human Rights Council" she has "denounced the growing number of states that have threatened to adopt, or even adopted, blanket bans against refugees and other non-nationals of particular religious affiliation or national origin, most commonly Muslims and residents of Muslim- majority countries."
"In the United States", she states, "Such bans have been implemented by the executive orders of a President who has publicly made racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic statements against non-nationals as well as United States citizens belonging to racial and ethnic minorities."
Especially criticising "President Trump’s nationalist populist agenda", she adds, it has "also included policies separating thousands of children from their asylum -- seeking families at the southern border of the United States, which have rightly drawn global condemnation."
She continues, in her "most recent report to the Human Rights Council" she has "highlighted the racialized impact that nationalist populist mobilizations can have on counter-terrorism policy", adding, "Populists in Europe and beyond have capitalized on the increased number of terrorist attacks in the past two years to garner support for policy proposals that are blatantly discriminatory and legitimize profiling in security-related surveillance that targets mainly Muslim communities."
Ironically, the special rapporteur's criticism comes alongside her critical remarks in the ruling BJP. Thus, Achiume underscores, "In India, the election of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been linked to incidents of violence against members of Dalit, Muslim, tribal and Christian communities."
She asserts, "Reports document the use of inflammatory remarks by BJP leaders against minority groups, and the rise of vigilantism targeting Muslims and Dalits", even as referring to jnstances of several countries where "nationalist populist political parties and even elected officials have been among the worst offenders where racist and xenophobic speech is concerned."
Achiume's report, says a note by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (UNOHRC), "analyses the threat posed by nationalist populism to the fundamental human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality."
UNOHRC approvingly states, "The focus of the report is ascendant nationalist populist ideologies and strategies that pose a sobering threat to racial equality by fuelling discrimination, intolerance and the creation of institutions and structures that will have enduring legacies of racial exclusion."
It adds, "The report condemns nationalist populism that advances exclusionary or repressive practices and policies that harm individuals or groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, including in combination with gender, sexual orientation, disability status, migratory status or other related social categories."

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