11:49 GMT18 June 2021
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    India’s northeastern state of Assam is releasing a draft citizens' list on January 1. The state is home to at least two million Bangladeshi immigrants. While India plans to award citizenship to illegal immigrants of other religious backgrounds, Bangladeshi Muslims would have to go back.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — India's northeastern state of Assam is donning the look of a fortress, a day before the release of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Apart from the local security apparatus, approximately 60,000 troops of the central paramilitary force have been deployed at every nook and corner of sensitive areas in anticipation of tensions that could flare up with the announcement of the list that is basically aimed at weeding out the thousands of Bangladeshi immigrants who have illegally settled in that part of India over the last five decades.

    The citizens' list is based on the census conducted in the state for the first time after the census of 1951. Those who do not figure in the list (Bangladeshi migrants, mostly Muslims) will have to leave the country.

    The draft NRC list will be available to the public from January 1, 8 am (Indian Standard Time) online at several government websites.

    ​"For keeping the situation under control, additional 85 companies of central security forces have arrived in the state in two batches," Mukesh Sahay, Director General of Police, Assam told the media.

    Sahay said the Indian Army has also been put on alert as their services would be required in case the situation goes out of control.

    The NRC has enlisted only those persons who have submitted documentary proof that their families have been residing in India since at least March 24, 1971. The Assam Police have already registered 147 cases of submission of forged or misleading documents. However, those left out in the draft NRC would be given time to gather the required documents. No specific date has been fixed for finishing the verification process of such applications or documents for updating the NRC.

    "The verification of supporting documents submitted by NRC applicants, both within and outside Assam, is under progress," Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, India's Minister of State for Home Affairs said on Friday in Parliament.

    ​Weeding out illegal immigrants in order to save job opportunities and resources for the local population was one of the election promises of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). 

    "They must go back, they are robbing the youths of India of their livelihood," Narendra Modi had said in a rally ahead of the 2014 general elections. 

    According to an estimate, there are currently two million Muslims in Assam who trace their roots to Bangladesh. The NRC has triggered a conspicuous fear among not only the illegal immigrants but also those Indian citizens who have no documentary proof to show their forefathers belonged to the country. At least a dozen people in Goalpara, Sonitpur, Silchar districts have committed suicide in the last one month due to fear of being thrown out of India.

    "We are living here for generations but today we are finding it difficult to provide documents to support our claims that we are Indians," Abdul Rahman, a resident of Cachar district where Muslims make up for 37.7% of the total population told to Sputnik.

    "We are four in the family. We have been running from pillar to post in order to secure documentary proof of our residence. But since my father is an illiterate laborer, he did not possess any such papers. We are having sleepless nights," Rahman added.

    However, the Indian government is yet to finalize the manner in which it would respond to cases where a person, irrespective of his religion, is identified as an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh but is not accepted by the Bangladesh Government as a citizen. "This will be dealt with under the provisions of relevant acts applicable at the relevant time," Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, India's Minister of State for Home Affairs said in response to a query in Parliament. 

    Meanwhile, Muslim leaders are blaming the BJP for banking upon fear psychosis among the Muslims in order to secure the majority Hindu votes in the state. But the common Muslim population has a different perspective on the issue.

     "Yes, NRC should be conducted and foreigners must be identified. We are glad as most of our resources are being exploited by illegal immigrants, "Abdul Haq, a resident of Tezpur told Sputnik.

    "At least we will have a document through which one can differentiate between illegal immigrants and the country's own citizens. We are happy," Sultan Alam, another resident of Tezpur, told Sputnik.

    During and after the 1971 India-Pakistan war which led to the creation of Bangladesh, several thousands of Muslims, as well as Hindus from the area (erstwhile East Pakistan; now Bangladesh), crossed over to India to take permanent shelter in Assam. The Hindus may, however, continue to safely stay in India as the Narendra Modi-led government plans to soon introduce a law that intends to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants, especially those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian background. The bill is planned to be passed in the ongoing winter session of the Parliament.


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