What the PM said: “No Muslim is being sent to detention centres, nor are there any detention centres in India. I am shocked at the lengths some people can go to spread lies”.
The Prime Minister misspoke: In November, the Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai informed the Lok Sabha that state governments have been instructed from time to time, to set up detention centres. “As informed by the government of Assam, as on 22 November 2019, 988 foreigners were lodged in six detention centres in Assam,” Rai said.
In ongoing hearings in the Karnataka High Court, the Union government said the Ministry of Home Affairs had written letters to all states in 2014 and again 2018, written letters to all states for setting up detention centres, to house foreign nationals.
There are six such centres in Assam, and similar facilities are being built in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telengana.
Why are there detention centres?
Foreigners, at the end of their sentence for crimes — whether for being illegal immigrants, or anything else — must be deported back to their country of origin. However, in many cases, there’s no evidence that alleged foreigners belong to the country India says they’re from — which means those countries refuse to take them (India also sometimes refuses to take back asylum-seekers in Europe, the US and Mexico on similar grounds). The detention centres are meant to be prisons-after-prisons.
In ongoing hearings in Karnataka, High Court judge KT Phaneendran instructed that adequate provision should be made for the education of children of detainees, as well as for their physical well-being. The Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines also state that detention centres should have “well-lit, airy rooms adhering to basic hygiene standards and equipped with electricity, water and communication facilities”. However, no costing of this exercise has been done by the MHA.
similar detention centres around the world — but many countries are realising it isn’t a great solution, both because of the huge costs involve, and the ethics of indefinitely detaining people. Australia and the United States have no time limits on detention, and the US has some 30,000 people in detention on any given day. However, tens of thousands more are released because it’s just too expensive to hold them indefinitely. France, on the other hand, has a 32 day limit on detention. Perhaps the PM just meant there are no Indians in detention centres
Legally, that claim would be true. However, there are credible complaints that people have been declared foreigners on the basis of flimsy evidence. In one case, documented by an
independent investigation Samina Bibi was declared a foreigner because she could not remember the constituency where her grandfather cast his vote in 1966. Abu Bakkar Siddiqui was declared a foreigner because his grandfather's name was spelt Aper Ali in one document and Afer Ali in another.
And this brings us to the NRC.
Muslims fear local officials will harass and intimidate them. The
current citizenship rules give vast discretionary rules to the local registrar of citizens, allowing them to arbitrarily determine whose citizenship might be in doubt.
And this brings us to the CAA.
Muslims fear the CAA will give Hindus wrongly identified as non-citizens an escape route, which they will be denied.
The government, however, for the last several years, has repeatedly committed to an NRC. Home Minister Amit Shah recently said the “NRC will be implemented across the country and all infiltrators identified and expelled before 2024 polls”. He made this statement while addressing a rally in Jharkhand. In November 2019, a tweet from the BJP's official handle also showed Home Minister Amit Shah ensuring “implementation of NRC in the entire country”. The BJP’s
Is it true, as the Prime Minister said, that since he came to power in 2014, “there has been no discussion on NRC anywhere”? manifesto also committed it to “implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country.”