Nearly two million people deprived of their citizenship in India


The Indian government, which has the objective of eventually getting rid ofexfiltrated aliens", has just taken a first step by excluding nearly two million people of Indian nationality in Assam (north-east), a state where religious and ethnic issues remain sensitive.

These people, potentially mostly Muslims, could end up without nationality and eventually be deported, at the risk of causing further unrest in a country already in heavy tension in Kashmir.

A total of 31.1 million inhabitants of Assam were registered in the National Register of Citizens (NRC), created at the initiative of the Hindu nationalist government, and 1.9 million others were not included, according to an official statement released Saturday.

Complex procedure

Security had been greatly strengthened in Assam for fear of overflowing during the publication of this list. However, no incidents were reported immediately. The NRC, which officially aims to fight against illegal immigration, asked the inhabitants of Assam to prove their Indian citizenship.

The procedure was particularly complex for the majority of the inhabitants of this State where the rate of illiteracy is high. In order to be registered, it was necessary to be able to prove that his presence or that of his family was prior to 1971, when millions of people had fled to that state from Bangladesh during the war of independence.

For decades, this poor and isolated state has been a hotbed of religious and ethnic tension. In 1983, about 2,000 people were killed in violent racial riots.

Residents claiming to be true "Assamese" want this census to end conflicts.

Critics accuse Hindu nationalists of using it to attack minorities, including Muslims.

The Indian government wants, in the future, to set up this NRC on the whole territory. The Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads the state of Assam.

Expelling termites

According to the opposition, the NRC translates the objective of the BJP to satisfy only its co-religionists. In January, India passed a law granting citizenship to people who left Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to settle in India in the last six years, provided they were not Muslim.

This measure fueled the fears of the 170 million Muslim Indian minority.

Interior Minister Amit Shah, the Prime Minister's right hand man, called for the expulsion oftermitesBefore the reelection in May of the BJP, he declared that he wanted to "lead a national campaign to return the infiltrators".

Tensions also remain high in Kashmir, a region populated by Muslims, since India revoked on August 5 the special autonomy status of the party it controls. Excluded persons from the NRC have 120 days to appeal to special foreign courts.

Opponents of this registration process claim that members of these courts are often under-qualified and subject to "performance" objectives. They also believe that the procedure was fraught with inconsistencies and errors.

Amnesty International said Saturday that many people have been declared aliens because of differences in the spelling of names.

Some members of the BJP have also protested against the NRC, saying that Bengali-speaking Hindus have been excluded.

"We no longer believe in the current form of the NRCsaid Himanta Biswa Sarma, a local BJP minister, on strategy to hunt illegal immigrants".

Those who have exhausted all legal remedies may be declared foreign and – in theory – placed in one of the six detention centers with a view to possible expulsion.

The construction of ten new camps of this type has been announced. According to the state government, camps currently house 1,135 people and have been operating for years.

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