Millions of Muslims may be deprived of citizenship and sent to prison camps
Human rights experts have warned that millions of Muslims in Assam could soon be removed from a list of “citizens” and later sent off to prison camps.
The northeastern state of Assam is currently updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) – the first time since 1951 – as part of a government campaign to identify undocumented immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. More than 7 million people, including 2.9 million married women, in the India’s state of Assam, have been asked to prove citizenship as part of the massive exercise.
The 2.9 million mainly Muslim women and nearly 4.5 million others are among the 13 million people who were left out from the first draft NRC published on 31 December 2017, which designated only 19 million people as legal citizens out of a total population of 32 million in Assam. According to government data, a total of 245,057 cases are pending while 90,206 people have been declared foreigners. India’s Supreme Court (SC) is supervising the entire process, but activists accuse officials of creating hurdles in the citizenship verification process.
Rejaul Karim Sarkar, president of All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU), said: “Though all the communities have to fill up the form for the NRC updating, the verification process has particularly been made very tough for Muslims and Bengali Hindus.” Assam’s indigenous communities are exempted from the rigorous documentation process.
Activists and human rights experts fear that tens of thousands who are not included in the NRC list will be thrown in detention centres and may be rendered stateless. They could end up in the same dire situation as the Rohingya people in Myanmar. A worldwide petition has been raised to attract international attention and asking the UN’s highest human rights body to intervene to prevent a crisis.