09/14/2019, 12.19
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Assam, the first mass detention center for "illegal" citizens is under construction

The camp consists of 15 four-storey buildings, schools and a hospital. The area chosen by the government is West Matia, in the district of Goalpara. The camp will host 3 thousand people, among the 1.9 million excluded from the National Register of Citizens. The nightmare of losing citizenship has already forced 51 people to commit suicide.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The construction of the first mass detention center for those excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam is "well under way". This is assured by the engineers who are completing 15 four-storey buildings, schools, a hospital, an auditorium and 180 bathrooms. The first Indian camp for citizens declared "illegal" is rising on 2.5 hectares in West Matia, in the district of Goalpara, about 150 km from the capital Guwahati.

Rabin Das, one of the builders, reports that the building "will be ready by the end of this year". The camp will host about 3 thousand people and will also have an area reserved for security forces. India has allocated 460 million rupees (5.8 million euros) for the project.

The construction work is entrusted to Assam Police Housing Corporation Limited. Work started on the camp in December 2018 and in the coming months the laying of the first stone of nine other similar residences is planned.

Government officials reassure the population that the center will not "be like a prison". G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister for Internal Affairs of States, guarantees that "special attention will be given to women with children and pregnant women. Children housed in detention centers will have educational facilities".

On 31 August, the Assam authorities published the list of those whose citizenship is recognized in the Indian state. The excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NCR) were 1.9 million, while in a first census there were four million; all of them are granted a 120-day extension to present new documents. At the end of this period, it is not yet clear what decisions will be taken.

In essence, the inhabitants must "prove" that they reside in the state at least since March 24, 1971, a few months before Bangladesh became independent. According to the authorities, since that year India has been invaded by millions of Bengali migrants, who therefore have no right of residence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, re-elected for a second term in May this year, led a heated campaign against illegal immigration, making it one of his flagships.

In recent months the population has likened the census to a "witch hunt" and claims that the government's only objective is to rebalance the ethnic-religious composition of the State, which fears an invasion similar to that of the Rohingya. Here, one third of the residents (out of a total of 32 million inhabitants) profess the Islamic religion, unlike the rest of the country which has a Hindu majority. Millions are tribal, most illiterate, who often do not have birth certificates to present at checks.

The fear of losing the right of residence, being forced to leave their homes and being locked up in what are considered concentration camps in all respects, has thrown dozens of people into desperation. The NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, which is helping the population compile documents, has recorded at least 51 suicides from people living with "trauma and stress" at the nightmare of losing citizenship.

Sarojini Hajong is one of the excluded from the list of citizens. He declares to the Ndtv Indian newspaper : "I am afraid of not being able to prove my citizenship and ending up in detention. What will happen next? We will all suffer in my family, from my children to my elderly mother to my sick wife”.

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