Is India Building The Largest Concentration Camp in Assam?
Genocide is the intentional destruction and erasure of a group of people based on race, religion, ethnicity or nationality. Classified by Gregory H. Stanton, there are ten stages of genocide, these include:
- Classification: the group that is in a position of power will categorise people according to race, religion, ethnicity or nationalist. An Us Vs. Them mentality is created.
- Symbolisation: A symbol, be it an assigned colour or specific article of clothing is attached to a certain group of people.
- Discrimination: Laws, customs and political power is used to deny the rights for all those part of the certain group of people.
- Dehumanisation: Propaganda is used to implement a diminished value of a group of people, comparisons to diseases, insects an animals are often drawn.
- Organisation: Designs are drawn by state for it's military to begin genocidal killing.
- Polarisation: Differences between a certain group and the rest of society are drawn, interaction is limited between differing groups by law. Human rights groups are often culled, those who stand against polarisation are killed.
- Preparation: Victims are identified, separated and forced to wear symbols. This is when deportations and isolation take place.
- Persecution: Death lists are drawn up. Property of the victims is seized by the state.
- Extermination: Massacres begin, dehumanisation of group lead state to brand this as "extermination".
- Denial: Perpetrators deny having committed any crimes and go on to hide evidence, victims are painted poorly in the process.
In the North East of India, Assam has suffered from ethnic and religious nationalism since the 1940’s. Restless Beings has been documenting the many attempts by the Indian government to reduce the Bengali speaking minority. Genuine Indian citizens of Assam have been branded “illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh”. This is all part of the long-game for the BJP.
Assamese nationalist parties alongside the Indian government have:
Stage 1, classified them into an ethnic Bangladeshi and religious Muslim group
Stage 2, symbolised them as ‘illegal immigrants’,
Stage 3, discriminated against them by denying them citizenship rights,
Stage 5, organized performative ‘Foreigners’ Tribunals’ to judge citizenship cases and mobilized a police force to track and brand them as ‘doubtful voters’.
These stages underline Stage 6, polarisation. Furthered by the BJP government as an Us (Hindu Indian citizens) vs Them (Muslim ‘illegal immigrants) mentality.
Of the 10 stages of genocide, the next stage is Stage 7, preparation. The Indian government have chosen the remote village of Matia (in one of Assam’s few Muslim majority districts, Goalpara) to begin their largest effort of housing 3,000 of those who they deem “non-citizens”. This will be done by building the largest permanent detention centre in the world. Currently in its last stage of completion, it covers approximately 288,000 square feet (about the size of seven football grounds).
Concentration camps are a present and widespread occurrence. Their purpose is for modern states to segregate groups of civilians by placing them in an isolated location and imposing rules that are distinct from a lawful system of rights and punishments.
So, where the BJP reports that Matia’s detention centre is a ‘housing’ with a cafeteria, hospital, school, auditorium, segregated living ; we must remember that the concentration camp is a symbol of everything democratic societies are supposed to stand against: the arbitrary use of power and the systematic removal of liberty.
When speaking to Khalil, a Masters Student in Goalpara, he expressed, “What can we possibly think of the facilities they (BJP) promise within the detention centre when our own facilities in Goalpara are not promising?”
The claim that the detention centre is to be used as ‘housing for illegal immigrants’ should be taken with not just a pinch of salt, but buckets full. We should never lose sight of this reality: if people are not allowed to leave except where forcibly deported, if they are systematically deprived of basic resources, this is when a detention centre starts to resemble more sinister creations,
That’s where Stage 8, persecution occurs.
As the legislative assembly election in Assam approaches; greater fear arise amidst the Bengali-speaking population in Assam. Hammad, who lives close to Matia, expressed that he feels the detention centre is just as terrible as a district jail - he and his community fear that it is made for them.
Interestingly, within his rallies, Modi makes no mention of the detention centres or of the BJP’s plans with enacting the CAA if they regain power in Assam. Instead, he has Stage 10, denied any creation of a detention centre. What he does repeatedly mention and is celebrated for is the string of ‘developmental projects’ the Central government has inaugurated to ‘benefit the people of Assam’.
Like any political party, the BJP will make promises to the people it needs to win votes from. False hope is not what should be held onto. When Amit Shah (Minister of Home Affairs) calls Bengali-speaking Assamese ‘termites’, it should reign familiar to when the Tutsis were branded “cockroaches” before the Rwandan genocide.
At the end of our call, Khalil said “As much as they will call us Foreigners, we will shout louder that ‘we are Indian”. A testament to the fact that belonging is not ascertained by language, ethnicity or religion, nor measured by cut-off dates for citizenship.