13m people left off India list of citizens
Around 13 million people living in northeastern India’s largest state have been left off a controversial draft list of citizens released yesterday by authorities, who are under pressure to identify and expel illegal immigrants.
Assam has long struggled to curb immigration from neighboring Bangladesh and is the only Indian state to compile a register of citizens.
The latest draft list includes only 19 million of the state’s more than 32 million residents. It was prepared on the orders of the Supreme Court, which is hearing a series of claims to Indian citizenship from undocumented residents of the state.
But there are also concerns the Assam state government, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, could use the issue to target the state’s Muslim minority.
Political leaders have vowed to deport anyone staying in the state illegally, although it is far from clear that Bangladesh would accept them.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal sought on Sunday to reassure anyone left off the draft list, saying every “bona fide Indian citizen” would eventually be included.
The BJP won elections in the state in 2016 after promising to root out illegal immigrants from mainly Muslim Bangladesh and protect the rights of indigenous groups.
Anyone living in Assam must now prove that their forebears appeared either in the state’s only previous register of citizens, compiled in 1951, or on any electoral roll published before March 1971 to be eligible for citizenship.
With millions anxious about their fate, the government boosted security across the state before releasing the list.