Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Largest Minority in India

 Which is the largest minority in India? Not the Muslims, not even the Dalits. Making up close to half the population, it is Women who are the largest minority in the country. And like in any other calamity, it is women who are going to be worst affected by NRC.

Baby girls are grudgingly allowed into the world. Families hope that they will disappear through neglect. Some do, but most survive. But do families have their documents in order? Most unlikely. When many even escape the Census, what hope they will survive NRC?

The Board Exams is when most of us get our documents regularised. Nearly 40% girls drop out before completing school, and only a third of them are engaged in formal work. Very easy for them to remain under the radar and not have the documents they need.

Post marriage, women taken on an entirely new identity. Different surname, often a different name. Old documents become redundant. New ones are created with sketchy backgrounds. Dates get mixed up in new documents. How much of it will stand up to scrutiny, nobody knows.

Women are often kept out of documentation to ensure they don't claim their share of the inheritance and/ or pension. It is brothers and uncles and cousins who do it. Some women fight back, but most don't. Their have a new home, but their documentation remains hazy.

There are women who fall by the wayside. The woman sent to the city to work in the informal sector. The maids, the construction workers. Some marry, and on losing one husband, take on another. Names and details change multiple times. Even they don't remember who they are.

Sex workers who taken on half a dozen identities every night. No matter how they landed up where they did, they certainly do not have documents to fall back on. And what of their children? No father, undocumented mother. What is their fate?

The trafficked girls abducted or bought to serve as 'wives' in states with poor gender balance. Domestic workers by day, sex slaves by night, living where they don't even know the language. When their documents are sought, will they be kept or cast aside?

Except a small percentage of privileged women, most are going to be affected by NRC. Who speaks for them? Who fights for their rights to be citizens of India? What happens to them if they are found wanting? How many camps will be needed to house them all.

Who speaks for them?


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