Four million people are about to be stateless

Four million people are about to be stateless

In just a few days, some four million people in India could find themselves without a country. If that happens, it would quickly become the largest crisis of stateless people on the planet.

This is happening in Assam, a hilly, landlocked state at the eastern edge of India along the Bangladeshi border. (The famous "Assam" tea comes from there.)

Back in the early 1970s, during Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan, millions of Bengali Muslims fled across the border into Assam, dramatically shifting the province's demographics and leading to tensions with Assam's Hindu majority. Nearly half a century later, Assam has the largest Muslim minority of any Indian state except Kashmir.

In the mid-1980's, India's government determined that any refugee who crossed the border into Assam after Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 should be a citizen of Bangladesh, not of India. Since then, successive Indian governments have tried to determine which Assam residents have paperwork that proves they lived in India before that date.

But for many people, finding the right documents – and reading them, in a state where a quarter of the population is illiterate – is challenging, if not impossible.

Last year, the Assam state government finally published a draft National Registry of Citizens (NRC) which lists everyone who is legally resident in Assam. Four million people, mostly Muslims who have been living in India for decades, were not on the list. Those people have until August 31 to prove a pre-1971 claim to residence or they will be deemed illegal.

The Indian government, like all governments, has the right and responsibility to know who is living on its territory and under what circumstances. But there are two big complications in the case of Assam.

First, what happens to these 4 million human beings if India officially marks them as illegal? Bangladesh has said it will not accept the deportation of millions of people who have been living in India for almost 50 years. Many of these 4 million people were born inside India after 1971. Should those people be "returned" to a country they've never known? Assam authorities are reportedly building detention camps that could constitute a horrific human rights violation.

Second, the Assam crackdown looks like the prelude to a broader bid by the national government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to discriminate against India's Muslims.

This spring, the BJP announced that it wants to extend the citizenship registry to the whole country in a bid to remove anyone who isn't a "Buddhist, Hindu, or Sikh." Interior Minister Amit Shah, who headed the BJP in the runup to its sweeping (re)election victory last year, has called Bengali Muslims "termites" and pledged to throw them into the sea.

The BJP is flush with power after the last election – but seeking to marginalize India's 177 million Muslims from what it means to be "Indian" risks destabilizing a precarious balance among faiths and ethnicities in the world's largest democracy.
An abstract image of a brain with high tech neural connections. Get the latest from Microsoft on the most pressing policy issues.

Visit Microsoft on The Issues for a front-row seat to see how Microsoft is thinking about the future of sustainability, accessibility, cybersecurity and more. Check back regularly to watch videos, and read blogs and feature stories to see how Microsoft is approaching the issues that matter most. For the latest, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Should you believe the hype(rsonic)?

Over the past few months, US officials have become increasingly alarmed about a new type of killing machines called "hypersonic weapons."

The top US General, Mark Milley, said that China's successful test of an advanced hypersonic weapon earlier this year was "very close" to a "Sputnik moment" – referring to the Soviet Union's surprise launch of the world's first artificial satellite in 1957, which raised fears that the US was lagging behind a formidable technological rival.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What is Facebook planning with the metaverse?

Well, my sense is that Facebook mostly prefers a virtual reality over the actual situation the company is in, with overwhelming criticism about the many harms to people it is causing all over the world. The metaverse at launch would be added to a number of services and experiences online in a more virtual and augmented reality setting. Think about what the gaming sector has done, but now, also, other big tech firms are jumping on the bandwagon. The thing to remember is that the user experience would be more immersive.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why did President Biden renominate Jay Powell to be the chairman of the Fed, and who's his No.2, Lael Brainard?

Well, Powell by all accounts has done a pretty good job of managing the Fed through the coronavirus pandemic. He dusted off the playbook, first pioneered by Chairman Bernanke during the financial crisis, and he's largely continued the relatively easy monetary policy of his predecessor at the Fed, now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. With inflation growing the way it has over the last several months, Biden now owns the policies of the Fed and is essentially endorsing what Powell has been doing and giving Powell the political cover to continue to keep rates low for longer, or as many people expect, raise them slightly over the next 12 months in order to fight inflation.

More Show less

When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the "1619 Project" tweeted: "In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619." In an upcoming interview with Ian Bremmer, she explains why she saw the verdict as a consequence of this country's long history of double standards when it comes to racial justice. "The fact that we own more guns in this country than any other country is certainly a legacy of 1619" Hannah-Jones says. "This idea that white Americans can patrol, that they have the right to open carry, this is not something that Black Americans can engage in, in the same way." Watch her full conversation with Ian Bremmer in an upcoming episode of GZERO World.

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Peng Shuai's public appearance, El Salvador's "Bitcoin City," and Americans' Thanksgiving celebrations.

Why has China silenced its famous tennis player, Peng Shuai?

Well, they haven't completely silenced her in the sense that the head of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee with Beijing Olympics coming up, basically told the Chinese government, "hey, what is the absolute minimum that you can do so that we can get Beijing Olympics back on track?" And they did the absolute minimum, which was a half an hour phone call with her that felt like kind of a hostage phone call. But nonetheless, she says that she is fine and is private and doesn't want to talk about the fact that she had accused the former Vice Premier of sexually assaulting her. That is a fairly heady charge. It was clear, going to get a lot of headlines in the run-up to the Olympics. And she wasn't heard from after that. So big problem for the Chinese in the run-up to the Olympics.

More Show less
What We're Watching: Biden's oil dilemma, Abiy Ahmed takes up arms, Iran nuclear talks on life-support

Biden's oil dilemma. The Biden administration says it will release some 50 million barrels of crude from US stockpiles in a bid to reign in soaring gasoline prices. Similar moves were made by Japan, South Korea, and China in recent days as global energy prices rise and supplies remain scarce in many places amid the ongoing economic recovery. Pain at the gas pump and broader inflation concerns in the US have contributed to Biden's tanking poll numbers. With Republicans poised to do well in next year's midterm elections, the president is under pressure to turn things around fast. But Biden has already come under fire from environmental groups, who say the president's move flies in the face of his Glasgow commitments to reduce rather than boost fossil fuel consumption. But in domestic politics, bread-and-butter issues are paramount, and if Biden doesn't "fix" the gas problem hurting American families, the Democrats could suffer a beating at the polls. What's more, Biden has also angered the 23-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which worries that extra US oil on the market will bring down prices for their own crude. Now the organization is warning that it might renege on an earlier promise to produce more oil.

More Show less
A view shows the site where a bus with North Macedonian plates caught fire on a highway, near the village of Bosnek, Bulgaria, November 23, 2021.

45: At least 45 people – including several children – were killed in Bulgaria Tuesday when a bus caught fire while traveling on a highway back from Istanbul. Poor infrastructure and road safety have resulted in Bulgaria recording the second-highest number of traffic fatalities in the European Union after Romania.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal