Over 1.9 million people were excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the final and updated document published on Saturday, barely a day after the BJP-led state government expressed its disapproval of the mammoth exercise saying the party no longer believed in it.
Security forces fanned out to sensitive places in the tense state where the massive and controversial exercise since 2014 has opened old wounds and divided people on religious and linguistic lines.
In a statement, the state coordinator of NRC Prateek Hajela said the final list has left out “19,06,657 number of people”. He said, about 31 million people have been included in the final list.
Though a break-up of the numbers were not immediately available but earlier data had indicated that most of those excluded could be Hindus and not Muslims as expected. This is one of the major concerns for the BJP governments—both at the state and the Centre—as providing safe haven for “persecuted Hindus” from neighbouring countries has been a major agenda of the ruling party.
The full list of the NRC be published on September 7.
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma—a key man in the BJP’s expansion in the Northeast—said the party no longer believed in the NRC as a national document. “It is just the end of a phase for us… Dispur and Delhi have already started thinking of an alternative mechanism to expel the illegal foreigners,” he was quoted as saying in a media report.
The 1.9 milion excluded are from nearly 33 million people who had applied for inclusion in the citizenship records. The final NRC features the names of individuals who have been living in India before March 24, 1971 or those whose ancestors resided before the cut-off date.
The NRC update exercise is part of the 1985 Assam Accord that marked the end of a six-year-long mass movement demanding detection and deportation of what many believe to be “lakhs of illegal immigrants”, mainly from Bangladesh with whom Assam shares a 262-km border.
The controversy-ridden exercise has put the state in the global spotlight over an alleged Hindu right-wing conspiracy targeting the minority Muslim community. Several BJP leaders, including Union home minister Amit Shah, have termed the infiltrators as “termites” while vowing to protect the Hindus fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries.
Those left out of the NRC will no get 120 days to reclaim their citizenship. Their appeals will be heard by foreigners tribunals, a quasi-judicial set-up exclusive to Assam. The Centre has also said that those left out of the NRC will not be sent to ‘detention centres’, temporary jails for people whose citizenship are in doubt. Both the central and state governments have also promised legal help to “all genuine citizens” whose names are not in the NRC.
Rights activists point to the exclusion of retired army personnel and family members of freedom fighters among others to highlight what they claim was a faulty process to determine citizenship.
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