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Iran Press TV

Indian government makes nearly 2 million people, mostly Muslims, stateless in Assam

Iran Press TV

Sat Aug 31, 2019 02:55PM

Nearly two million people, most of them expected to be Muslims, in northeast India are left facing statelessness as the Indian government seeks to weed out "foreign infiltrators."

According to a citizenship list published by the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam province on Saturday, of roughly 33 million people who had submitted their documents last year, a total of 31.1 million were included in the citizenship list but 1.9 million others were deemed ineligible.

"Any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of the claims and objections can file an appeal before the foreigners' tribunals," said Prateek Hajela, the coordinator of the state's register, in a statement, adding that everyone had received an adequate hearing.

He also said that those excluded have four months time to protest and prove their citizenship at hundreds of regional quasi-judicial bodies, known as foreigners' tribunals.

If those bodies again rule that those excluded are illegal immigrants, they can make yet another appeal to higher courts and prove that they or their forebears were in India before 1971.

Those who have ultimately been rejected could be declared foreigners and be placed in one of six detention centers with a view to possible deportation.

Assam, an impoverished isolated province of 33 million people, has experienced decades-long inter-religious and ethnic tensions, and has long seen large influxes from elsewhere. In one case, some 2,000 people lost their lives in the 1983 massacre.

Security was boosted in the volatile province ahead of the release of the NRC list, with some 20,000 extra personnel brought in and gatherings were prohibited in a number of locations.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) runs Assam. He is now under fire by critics who say the NRC process reflects the premier's party goal to serve only its co-religionists.

Back in January, India's lower house passed controversial legislation that gives citizenship to people who moved to the South Asian country as recently as six years ago - as long as they are not Muslims. This has sparked fears among India's 170-million Muslim minority for its future.

Modi has also revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status, stripping the Muslim-majority region of some of the autonomy it previously had.

New Delhi's controversial move not only infuriated Pakistan, which controls parts of Kashmir, but also sparked strong anger among the local population.

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