Saturday, August 31, 2019

Indian state of Assam strips millions of citizenship

Almost two million people in the Indian state of Assam, in the north east, were left facing statelessness on Saturday after the state published a citizenship list aimed at weeding out “foreign infiltrators”.

A total of 31.1 million people were included in a National Register of Citizens (NRC), but 1.9 million were deemed ineligible, according to the Assam government. A large chunk of those excluded were expected to be Muslims.

Assam has long seen large influxes from elsewhere, including under British colonial rule and around Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence when millions fled into India.


For decades this has made Assam a hotbed of inter-religious and ethnic tensions, adding to pressure for a lasting solution. Sporadic violence has included the 1983 massacre of around 2,000 people.

Security was beefed up in Assam ahead of the release of the NRC, with some 20,000 extra personnel brought in and gatherings banned in some locations.

Only those who can demonstrate that they or their forebears were in India before 1971 could be included in the list.

But navigating the complex process is a huge challenge for many in a region of high illiteracy where many lack documentation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party runs Assam — and critics say the NRC process reflects the BJP’s goal to serve only its co-religionists.

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