The Indian government has stripped at least four million people—mainly “refugees” from Bangladesh who entered the country in 1971—of their right to Indian citizenship in the state of Assam and has started deporting them, all to “protect the ethnic Assamese” people.
The Assamese people are recognized as the indigenous people of the state of Assam, and because that state borders Bangladesh, it is a continuous target of illegal immigration from that latter country.
According to newswire reports, India’s registrar general has announced that four million people “who failed to produce valid documents had been excluded from a draft list of citizens in the northeastern state of Assam.”
Residents were asked to prove that they or their families lived in the country before March 1971, when a wave of “refugees” fleeing conflict in neighboring Bangladesh settled in the border state.
Of the more than 32 million people who applied to be recognized on the register of Indian citizens, 4,007,707 were rejected, registrar general Sailesh told reporters in the state’s capital, Gauhati.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, which came to power in the state in 2016, says the “new citizenship test aims to protect ethnic Assamese and crack down on illegal migration.”
Sailesh said the draft citizens register was not meant to drive people out, and that those left off the list will have until the end of September to file an appeal.
“Adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections. No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear,” said Sailesh.
Tensions between Assam’s indigenous tribes and Bengali-speaking Muslims have led to outbreaks of deadly violence in the past. In 1983, more than 2,000 Muslim illegal immigrations were massacred by a mob in the village of Nellie.
To prevent further unrest, thousands of paramilitary forces were deployed to the state ahead of the release of the draft list.
The final national register of Indian nationals will be published after any disputed claims are settled.
* India also runs a racially-based citizenship service for any person of “Indian origin,” born or living in any country of the world. The scheme, which used to be known as the “Person of Indian Origin Card” (POIC) is now called the “Overseas Citizenship of India” (OCI) system.
The OCI system grants any person of “Indian origin” the right to live and work indefinitely in the Republic of India. To apply for and use an OCI document, a holder must be a citizen of and hold a passport of another country, except that of Pakistan and Bangladesh.