08/01/2018, 15.23
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Rohingya crisis behind Assam’s citizenship crisis

In the north-eastern Indian state at least four million people could be expelled. The names of people who fled Bangladesh have not been included in the register. West Bengal's chief minister slams ruling party for stirring things up that might spark a civil war. The latter reacted by suing her.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Stripping four million people in Assam of their citizenship, thus of their rights including the vote, discriminates in particular against the poor and the marginalised, this according to Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an Indian NGO that provides legal support in cases of discrimination and sectarian prejudice.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Ram Puniyani, president of Mumbai's Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, said that his organisation shares this view, noting that denying millions of people their rights stems from the brutal feelings that affect anyone who is considered different because they are foreigners. “This has a single cause, namely the Rohingya refugee crisis."

The issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam continues to be hotly debated in India.  Between 2014 and 2016, the register was updated, but four million people were excluded. Now they might face deportation.

Yesterday the debate took on apocalyptic tones when Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal and leader of the Trinamool Congress, said that the publication of the list could lead to civil war.

She blames the government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "They (BJP) are trying to divide the people. The situation cannot be tolerated. There will be a civil war, [a] blood bath in the country," she said.

The BJP, the ruling Hindu nationalist party, reacted today. Its youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), filed a complaint against Ms Banerjee, one of India’s most popular political leaders.

The debate stems from the NRC’s decision to exclude people who could not prove that they had immigrated to the state before Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971.

Since the end of that war, which pitted West Pakistan vs East Pakistan (Bangladesh), Assam has been the target of large-scale migration. Over the years, the arrival of largely Muslim immigrants has become a major issue.

According to analysts, the decision to not include people of Bengali origin in the list is due to the number of Muslims in the state.

Many point out that the list is the latest attempt by Prime Minister Modi's right-wing government to favour the Hindu majority at the expense of minorities, especially in view of the 2019 elections.

Things got even hotter after the Union government proposed to collect biometric data from the four million people to prevent them from moving to other states and change their identity.

According to the CJP, the people of Assam deserve respect and the fate of so many innocent people is hanging by a thread.

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