Assam: Muslim survivors of Indian massacre shaken by citizenship test

Glen Norman
August 3, 2018

In a major face-off over identifying genuine citizens, BJP President Amit Shah on Tuesday charged the Opposition of politicising the National Register of Citizens of Assam and expressed complete surprise that only two political parties - namely the BJP and the BJD - had backed the NRC in the Rajya Sabha.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that the Indian citizens whose names are not included in Monday's list need not worry.

Numerous state's Bengali community have lived in India for decades, crossing the border into Assam during the bloody Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) independence struggle in 1971.

Activists and experts say the NRC process is not likely to solve the contentious citizenship issue as tens of thousands of people who have been marked as "Doubtful" or "D" voters, their descendants and those With pending cases in the Foreigners' Tribunal are not being considered by the NRC authorities. The first draft, with 1.9 crore names, was released on December 31, 2017.

With an eye on the 2019 national election, the BJP's Hindu-first campaign has become more strident, critics say, playing to its core base with divisive programs such as the citizenship test in Assam, already a tinderbox of ethnic and religious tensions. "But the fact of the matter is that there is no illegal immigrant from Bangladesh in India".

Elsewhere in the country's northern heartland, lynchings of Muslim cattle traders have risen under Modi in the country where many Hindus consider cows sacred, further deepening social divides.

Meanwhile, TMC leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said excluding 40 lakh people from the list would have serious ramifications on the demography of different states adjoining Assam.

"It's just Muslims who will likely have to go through a complicated, unfair appeal with no right to counsel, ending in no hope of staying if they lose", Ricken Patel, the executive director of Avaaz, said in a statement.

The chief minister also held talk with his Nagaland counterpart, who was well aware of the possible influx of people not listed in the NRC into the state. "This isolation has been done keeping in mind as to who can vote for the BJP and who cannot vote for them", she allged.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said those excluded will be given chance to make claims and objections.

Surjewala said that on one hand, Shah seeks "fake credit" for NRC in Assam, and on the other side, the Narendra Modi government brings in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, "both of which are contrarian in spirit of one another". Several forces, at the worldwide level, are trying to create disorder, saying that updating the NRC is an issue between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Hundreds of Bengali-speaking Muslims whose nationality is suspect are already living in half a dozen detention camps in Assam state. He has assured me that the government will not harass people.

Also Bangladesh has not agreed to claims that these people are irregular migrants, making their deportation unlikely. The BJP and NRC authorities have repeatedly denied the allegations. "We thanked the Supreme Court for its direction to update the NRC of 1951".

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