An Indo-Anglican’s Document Dilemmas

Nilofar Suhrawardy

Just as notion of recognising people by their dress has been propagated, it wouldn’t be surprising if language is picked up next. Where would those in largely western attire and more comfortable with English than local languages be deported to? And what proof would be provided to other nations of these being their citizens?

Notwithstanding this limitation, as a part of the annual New Year resolutions exercise, I am deliberating on where to procure a birth certificate for officials when and if they do ever turn up demanding them. Parents are no longer around. All this scribe and her sibling are aware of is the hospital, where we began our life. Am 200 per cent certain that hospital’s name bears little appeal for present party in power at the Centre and in the state where it is located. It is Kamala Nehru in Allahabad, the city now known as Prayagraj. And this spells another dilemma. Even if we had birth certificates, the officers are least likely to view them as genuine. The name of city, in present circumstances, may be viewed as false.

Ok, assuming they have no problems with city’s name, how do we convince them about date and place of our birth? Which person can verify his/her own birth and also be sure that it is true? We don’t have birth certificates. Whatever the date entered by parents at time of admission to school has to date been considered as proof of our date of birth. A possible option is for governments to ask hospitals across the country to provide them with a record of persons born before 1971. The credible point, perhaps hopefully, would be correct entry of parents’ names. This scribe would not have too much problem with this formula for in all probability less than 10 babies born in Kamala Nehru Hospital and/or other hospitals in Prayagraj have this family name.

However, those with other surnames may not be so lucky. But let this be government’s headache to ensure whether persons born here before 1971 are Indian citizens or not. With respect to another key issue that of parents’ place of birth, what do we do in case of their not being alive? Lively discussions with parents never ever focussed on their birth certificates. All we have been aware is that of hailing from Uttar Pradesh. It would be all more troublesome for people of our parents’ generation to produce proof of their parents’ birth. The older a person is, more problematic would be the exercise of providing proof of his/her parents’ birth-certificates. Nobody would have been around if their parents weren’t there. If only this simple explanation worked.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try and confuse officials asking for our parents’ birth certificates by politely questioning on how we can provide the same, when we weren’t around to get theirs made. Am not aware about how popular surrogacy, etc. was in earlier days. It may have been known by some other traditional term. To date, have not heard of DNA tests being earlier conducted, precisely prior to 1971, to verify parentage. This is just being mentioned lest some new law is introduced about DNA tests being made compulsory. Well, at present, digging out nonexistent birth certificates seems as impossible as conducting DNA tests of those who are not around.

It may not be a bad idea to suggest the United States’ example regarding citizenship. Who knows, the American-formula may have some appeal. The paternal grandparents of President Donald Trump were German immigrants. His mother was born in Scotland. Former President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and his father in Kenya. In fact, a significant number of Americans trace their origins to the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. The recent decades have witnessed increase in Chinese and people from other Asian countries, including India and Pakistan taking American citizenship. Just think, who would be left behind in the USA if birth certificates of parents and grandparents were given importance there?

Yes, the question is not of others opting for Indian citizenship but of India granting citizenship to some minority citizens being oppressed in a few neighbouring countries. Perhaps, the government needs to be a little more specific. Through what process the question of which citizens belonging to certain minorities being oppressed in a few countries is going to be proved? It may assume the nature of a sensitive diplomatic issue.

The preceding point draws attention to yet another aspect. If something is happening beyond Indian borders, in external territories, should it be considered as an internal issue — a concern of the home ministry or the external affairs ministry? If it concerns illegal immigrants, the defence ministry remains answerable for security lapses allowing their entry. Maybe, the ministers and the officials of the three ministries should deliberate seriously on this. It may not be a bad idea to form another ministry, exclusively devoted to this issue, that of oppression of minorities in a few countries. The new ministry would need to draw lines regarding what is considered as oppression and what is not. Besides, the central government needs to be extremely cautious about the diplomatic missiles it may face regarding oppression of minorities within its own quarters. It may not be a bad idea for the government to ink its New Year resolutions in this direction, unless, of course, it is opposed to these as being non-Indian.


The writer is a journalist who specializes in communications studies and nuclear diplomacy. She is also the author of several books.

One Response to "An Indo-Anglican’s Document Dilemmas"

  1. SKChadha  February 15, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Few jokers are roaming around the world with Indian Passports for which they gave every certificate right from their birth certificates and here they are shedding crocodile tears. Pathetic. ☹

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