As Amit Shah has repeatedly stated, nationwide implementation of NRC could soon be a reality. While BJP and supporters insist that this will not hurt "real Indian citizens," a shadow of doubt remains.
If the disastrous implementation in Assam is anything to go by, several populations could be hurt by a nationwide NRC. One of these communities is trans people, who remain severely marginalised in the country as of today. Let's explore how.
The Plight Of Trans Communities
Trans people remain one of the most discriminated communities in India. Due to families not accepting their trans children and social attitudes remaining negative, many trans folk live in extreme poverty and terrible standards of living.
This means that a lot of transgender people don't have access to their identity documents. In order to prove lineage for the nationwide NRC, they need support from their families who have often shunned them or kicked them out. Moreover, if they live on the street and are trying to earn a day-to-day living, they may not have their own papers anymore.
For trans people who have changed their details on paper, a whole new set of problems emerges when it comes to producing documents for the nationwide NRC. As shown by the Assam NRC, trans people who did register were largely left out. Amongst the few included in the final draft, none were listed by their updated, actual gender and name. Instead, the NRC listed their birth sex and dead name. While activists struggled to gather data and present it to the court, Justice Ranjan Gogoi said;
“You missed the bus. We cannot re-open the entire exercise now.”
While the plea remains pending, this marks a dark undertone to the predictions of the nationwide NRC.
Nationwide NRC and The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act
Thanks to this parliament session, the Transgender Persons (Protection Of Rights) Bill is now an Act. To break it down, any trans people who are included on the nationwide NRC with their birth sex and dead name would now have to apply for a District Magistrate certificate. Even this certificate would only allow them to identify as "transgender," rather than the self-identified gender the NALSA judgement had guaranteed.
Even changing documents during the NALSA era wasn't easy or cheap. The documentation required for each step required different authorities, from government-approved psychiatric wings to lawyers and newspapers, that not everyone has access to. It was annoying at best and could be very costly for someone not financially well-off. A lot of time and effort is needed for such legal processes, which could have been used for earning a living instead.
However, the nationwide NRC could void all this effort, forcing trans people to go through difficult, frustrating, and downright discriminatory processes all over again. All this, just to attain recognition for who they are. Even then, they can't attain a gender label of "male" or "female" anymore without surgery.
Tip Of The Iceberg
This is still the best-case scenario. Spelling errors or changes have caused problems in the Assam NRC. In such a case, a change in name and gender could cause easily cause issues during a nationwide NRC. Legal counsel and appearing in court to prove your citizenship can be expensive and lengthy. Several trans populations just cannot afford that.
So what happens to those not included once a final nationwide NRC is drafted? Will they all be sent to detention centres as well? This could be a massive erasure of trans people from citizenship, voting populations, and strip them of the few rights they still have.
While BJP claims that all minorities will receive provisions to be eligible for NRC, why was that not the case in Assam? The ignorant and flawed procedure of implementation in the first step sets a grim tone for the nationwide NRC to follow.
If it does go through, of course.