India excludes more than 4 million people from draft citizens list in tea-rich state of Assam


Posted

July 30, 2018 19:45:27

India says it has excluded more than 4 million people from a draft list of citizens in the north-eastern state of Assam who could not produce valid documents, a move that has sparked fears about the future of thousands in the region.

Key points:

  • Of 32.9 million applicants, the names of 28.9 million have been included in the draft
  • More than 4 million people left out can file appeals by September 30
  • All residents had to produce documents proving they or their families lived in the country before March 24, 1971

Security has been tightened across the state, which borders Bangladesh, as thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims worry about being sent to detention centres or deported, a witness said.

The tea-rich state of Assam has long been the centre of social and communal tensions with locals campaigning against illegal immigrants, a fight that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led Government has championed.

Of 32.9 million applicants, the names of 28.9 million have been approved and included in the draft, Sailesh, India’s registrar general, told reporters in Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.

Sailesh, who uses one name, said the more than 4 million left out can file appeals by September 30 and prove their Indian nationality by providing documents.

“If the government has decided to brand us foreigners what can we do?” Abdul Suban, 60, a Bengali-speaking Muslim, said earlier.

“The NRC [National Register of Citizens] is trying to finish us off. Our people have died here, but we will not leave this place.”

Hundreds of thousands of people fled to India from Bangladesh during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s — and most of them settled in Assam.

To be recognised as Indian citizens, all residents of Assam had to produce documents proving they or their families lived in the country before March 24, 1971.

Critics see the citizenship test as another measure supported by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aimed at minority Muslims.

The BJP denies any bias but says it opposes a policy of appeasement of any community.

Authorities in the state have previously said the citizenship test was crucial to protect ethnic Assamese, many of whom have demanded removal of outsiders they accuse of taking jobs and cornering resources in the state of 33 million.

The final national register containing the names of only Indian nationals after weeding out illegal migrants will be published after the disputed claims are settled.

Reuters/AP

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