By Muslim Mirror Network
In a bid to foster meaningful discussions on inclusiveness, democratic principles and citizenship, the Centre for Studies of Plural Societies (CSPS) organized its first-ever ‘Citizens’ Dialogue,’ bringing together prominent scholars and experts in the field. The keynote address was delivered by Mr. Abdul Khaleque, Hon’ble Member of Parliament from Barpeta, Assam. The session delved into the complexities surrounding citizenship, with a particular focus on the context of Assam, shedding light on historical, legislative, and legal events that have shaped the discourse on this critical matter.
The ‘Citizens’ Dialogue’ event, held under the aegis of CSPS, commenced with an introductory session led by Ms. Simmi Bhandari, a research intern at the institute. Dr. Omair Anas, Director of CSPS, emphasized the importance of inclusiveness and dialogue in a democratic society, where multiple stakeholders need to engage to find common ground. He highlighted the significance of plurality, a core value upheld by CSPS, in promoting an open platform for discussions and debates.
Dr. Irfanullah Farooqi, Assistant Professor at South Asian University, moderated the session, emphasizing the need to address pertinent questions concerning democracy and citizenship in contemporary times.
In his insightful address, Mr. Abdul Khaleque tackled the complexities of citizenship in the context of Assam, touching upon historical and political factors that have shaped the discourse in the state. He discussed the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), shedding light on their implications and how various groups have reacted to these developments. Mr. Khaleque pointed out the flaws and issues with the NRC process, presenting compelling statistics that illustrated the challenges faced by different demographics following its completion.
Drawing attention to a unique identification system in Assam known as ‘d-voter,’ which marks individuals as suspected illegal foreign migrants, Mr. Khaleque highlighted the difficulties faced by those labeled as such. The burden of proof placed on these individuals has led to a rigorous verification process, often resulting in harassment and exhaustion. He also underscored how ethnic lines, particularly associating the Bengali identity with stigma and contempt, create fault lines around the concept of citizenship in Assam.
Following his talk, the floor was opened for a stimulating question and answer session with the audience. Discussions focused on the precarious experiences of minorities in Assam and the implications of delimitation concerning the electorates in the state. Mr. Khaleque explained how ethnic intolerance against Bengalis contributes to their alienation and lack of trust in the state’s institutions.
Dr. Sheeba Naaz, Research Coordinator at CSPS, expressed her commitment to continue the tradition of ‘Citizens’ Dialogue’ to keep everyone engaged in meaningful discussions. She conveyed her gratitude on behalf of CSPS to Mr. Abdul Khaleque and all participants for contributing to a successful and intellectually stimulating dialogue.
The Centre for Studies of Plural Societies (CSPS) set a precedent for fostering inclusive and informed discussions with its inaugural ‘Citizens’ Dialogue’ on “The Idea of Democratic Citizenry.” Mr. Abdul Khaleque’s keynote address shed light on the complexities surrounding citizenship in Assam, presenting a historical, legislative, and legal perspective on the matter. The event served as a platform for thought-provoking exchanges, emphasizing the importance of plurality and dialogue in a democratic society. As CSPS looks forward to continuing this tradition, the engagement and participation of scholars and experts pave the way for a more informed and progressive understanding of democratic principles and citizenship in the ever-evolving landscape of India.