Indian authorities have left the names of nearly 4 million people off a controversial registry list in the northeast border state of Assam, effectively casting a shadow over their citizenship.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled to India from Bangladesh during its New Delhi-backed war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s. Majority settled in Assam, which has a near-165-mile (270km) border with Bangladesh. "To be included in the list, residents of the state had to apply and submit proof that they or their ancestors were in the 1951 NRC or any subsequent voter list till the cut-off date".
Writing in the Economic and Political Weekly, Sanjoy Hazarika, a human rights activist and Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said it was unclear what will happen to those who could find themselves stateless.
One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biggest critics is rallying opposition parties against his government after a new list of citizens excluded 4 million people from the northeastern state of Assam in a drive against illegal immigrants.
Scores of people were chased down and killed by machete-armed mobs intent on hounding out Muslim immigrants in 1983. Arunachal which shares long boundary with Assam is vulnerable and therefore state government should take all possible measures in this regard.
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"The Assam Accord says that each and every infiltrator shall be found out and struck out of the NRC". It comprised 1.9 crore names out of the total application of 3.29 crore people in Assam. Since then, more claims have been verified and more names added to the register. "So, our humble appeal to the NRC authorities is that they should be meticulous enough in ensuring Indian citizens are not excluded during claims and objections process".
"Although we have been told that we can apply once again to get our names enlisted in the citizenship list, we are anxious about our future", said Nur Banu, a 45-year-old woman from the Darrang district, whose family of six was missing from the list.
"Some members met me in my chamber".
"With the publication of the complete draft, a line from Robert Frost's poem, "And miles to go before I sleep" came to my mind". Muazzem Ali said the issue can become "bilateral" only after the Indian government takes it up with the Bangladesh government. He also allayed fears among a section of people, insisting "there is no need to panic as it is not the final NRC".
The Assam controversy comes as the government looks at amending the citizenship law to allow certain "persecuted minorities", including Hindus and Christians from neighboring countries, to obtain legal status after six years of residency in India. But the fundamental issue for many is that they simply don't have documents dating back decades.
RGI has now given one more opportunity to those who couldn't make it to the NRC to prove their citizenship.