September 18, 2019

India defends Assam citizenship move after UN criticism

Guwahati: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India again defended a controversial citizenship registry in northeast Assam following criticism by the United Nations, saying that the nearly two million people excluded from the list would not be “stateless.”

The National Citizens Registry (NRC) was prepared by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India, which also runs the state of Assam, saying it was necessary to detect “foreign infiltrators.”

Critics say the BJP is using it to boost a Hindu nationalist agenda and marginalize the large minority of Muslims in the state.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, called on New Delhi on Sunday to avoid stripping people of their nationality, saying that “it would be a huge blow to global efforts to eradicate statelessness.”

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar defended the process and said that the NRC “does not make the excluded person” stateless “and that any decision taken would be consistent with Indian laws and their” democratic traditions. “

“(The NRC) does not make him a ‘foreigner’ either, within the legal meaning of the term,” Kumar said in a statement released Sunday night.

“For those who are not on the final list, (they) will not be detained and will continue to enjoy all rights as before until they have exhausted all available resources under the law.”

Assam is largely surrounded by Bangladesh and has long seen the influx of migrants, even during the colonial government of Great Britain.

But under the NRC, only those who can prove that they or their ancestors were in India before 1971 can be included in the list.

Those that remain have 120 days to appeal in the so-called Foreigner Courts, and they can also appeal their case through the courts.

Critics have said that the NRC process reflects the BJP’s goal of serving Hindus, and a large part of the excluded are expected to be Muslims.

But there has been growing indignation among local BJP leaders, who claim that many Bengali-speaking Hindus, a key voting bank for the party, have also been excluded from the list.

It is still unclear what will happen to people who have exhausted their legal avenues. In theory, they can be placed in one of the six detention centers with a view to possible deportation to Bangladesh.

Dhaka previously said that the NRC is an “internal matter” for India and that none of its citizens had crossed the border since 1971.

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