Assam, 4 million people deprived of citizenship, at of risk deportation
Those excluded from the population list are Bangladeshi immigrants who fled during the liberation war of 1971. They must prove that they entered India before the declaration of independence or descendants of permanent residents. Experts: the aim is to reduce the Muslim population for the benefit of the Hindu nationalist party.
Guwahati (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than 4 million Indians risk losing their citizenship and being expelled from the country if they fail to provide evidence of having entered Assam before 1971, the year of Bangladesh's declaration of independence. Yesterday, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published a list minus the names of those who emigrated to India in the aftermath of the Bengali liberation war.
According to analysts, the decision to exclude Bengal emigrants has a specific purpose: to change the composition of the population of the state, reducing the percentage of members of the Islamic faith. A similar exclusion - it is commonly believed - would benefit the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general elections of 2019.
The publication of the list has panicked the population, who are going to public offices to check the presence of their name on the list. The National Register of Citizens is the Assam registry: the list was created in 1951 after the census carried out the same year. It shows the details of each inhabitant: name, age, surname, status and property.
Since the end of the conflict between western and eastern Pakistan (today Bangladesh), Assam has been the target of massive migration. In 1972 India and Bangladesh signed a treaty of friendship, cooperation and peace that did not slow down the flow of migrants. In the 80s it became urgent to resolve the issue of the millions of Bengalis fleeing the war, which was brought to the attention of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Finally, on August 15, 1985 the Assam Agreement was signed that regulates the registration of the inhabitants: all the Bengalis who entered between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971 (day before the date of independence of the Bangladesh) and those who can prove to be direct descendants of refugees, but on condition that they are born in India and permanently reside there.
Updating the data of the register with the data collected between 2014-2016 has triggered the current crisis. The population will have time to register documents from August 30th to September 28th. After that, their expulsion will be triggered.
According to experts, the publication of the list is the latest attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing government to benefit the Hindu majority at the expense of minorities.
33 million people live in the state and there are frequent clashes between the majority, ethnic groups and the separatist guerrilla naxalite (a term used to indicate the Indian Maoist communists). The Bengalis, mostly Muslims, live in the marshy areas of the Brahmaputra River and - even if they do exist - their documents are often inaccurate.
Interior Minister Rajnath Singh urged not to spread panic because "no action of force will be taken against anyone". Avaaz activists (US-based group) point out that the procedures for submitting documents may take a long time. "It seems that only Muslims - says director Ricken Patel - must go through such a complicated and unjust process, without the right to receive support and with the fear of having to leave if they lose".