Severe flooding delivered yet another blow to the people of Assam this past summer as widespread destruction and despair in the state caused many deaths and left others homeless. Assam is prone to flooding, however this summer the rainfall was significantly higher. Around 100 people have died from incidents related to the flood and around a further 30 from landslides following reports by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA).

In the midst of this, the people of Assam have been dealing with the stress of the NRC register as many have found themselves left off the register and deemed ‘doubtful’ NRC Indians whilst having to endure yet another spate of suffering as Coronavirus and natural flooding have left many relying only on the hope that their situation will improve.

The NRC is the National Register of Citizens which is a register of all the people in the Indian state of Assam that can prove that they arrived in India the day before Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan on 24 March 1971.

Modi and the BJP party are ever-increasingly imposing their nationalist views on a country becoming divided on religious lines with the NRC being a clear manifestation of their discrimination against Muslims who make up most of Assam - the state best known for its tea – in line with BJP’s outlook.

Further to that, India’s notorious backlogged courts already presented difficulties from the outset for those in Assam left off the list. This has been added to by the Coronavirus and its resultant lockdown which has meant poorer families have been left poorer from not being able to work meaning they have struggled to fund their case – it’s very much a choice between surviving off what little they have or giving it away to fund their legal costs for the appeals process and the costs for attending NRC hearings.

For those living beside the river Brahmaputra, the situation is even worse as flooding has caused destruction to homes meaning those living beside the river are now without a home and without their main source of income, being the vegetables and crops they grow and the land that cattle graze on which have been submerged under water and destroyed. Brahmaputrans do not even have the choice that other Assamese have as they are left with nothing to choose from.

What’s more, government aid cannot reach the river islands on the Brahmaputra and so the main focus has shifted to survival mode creating even greater disadvantage as time to prepare for NRC hearings, scheduled at short notice, is lost and important documents to substantiate any legal right of citizenship is lost in the floods along with it.

There are also accounts of individuals selling their possessions to ensure their release from detention camps, which are akin to prisons, only to find their houses flooded without any real assistance to restore them. These detention camps are a key way that the Indian Government puts downwards pressure on the Assamese they regard as being foreigners. Many Assamese with strong connections to the land from having been born, raised and owning land are still regarded as doubtful citizens.

What is unclear is whether the numbers of ‘flood-related deaths’ are accounting for the even more worrying and continuing numbers of Assamese resorting to suicide, such as, farmers unable to sustain their livelihoods and those of their families as the NRC list exclusion looms large.

Time will only tell how the situation for the Assamese will pan out, but what is clear is that control of their livelihoods is in the hands of the Government.

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