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INDIA: BJP bats citizenship bill to counter mistakes

Assamese groups are against the final version of the citizens’ list that excludes indigenous and Hindu communities. Now, New Delhi wants to introduce a citizenship bill to save “genuine” residents from deportation. Nearly 2 million people in Assam are facing the threat of statelessness and detention after being excluded from the National Register of Citizens, an official list to root out illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Most of these hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in New Delhi will offer succor.
In 2016, the party won the state elections in Assam, an event that signified the breakthrough of a national Indian party in the region. The BJP made this possible through the clever use of slogans
urging people to protect the community’s jati, mati, bheti [home, hearth and identity] from “illegal Bangladeshis.”
To this effect, the party has consistently stressed upon the distinction between “infiltrators” – Muslims who emigrated from Bangladesh – and “refugees,” or Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains trying to escape persecution in their country of origin. According to the new Citizenship Amendment Bill proposed by the BJP government, these people will be granted citizenship if they prove they have been staying in India before December 31, 2014.
When a draft was released in 2018, 4.1 million people were left out and at risk of becoming stateless. Many of these were poor and illiterate members of the Muslim minority. However, the draft was revised and the final NRC published in August this year. This time, many of those excluded are Hindus or members of Assam’s indigenous tribes.
“It is unfortunate that of the 1.9 million excluded, ethnic people have [also] been dropped from the NRC. Documents like migration certificates were not accepted by the authorities. We see the inclusion of foreigners, this is wrongful,” state BJP President, Ranjeet Kumar Dass told DW.
Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who left the Indian National Congress (INC) to join the BJP in 2016, said, “We are not interested in the NRC anymore. How is the rate of exclusion of people in districts bordering Bangladesh the lowest? Something is flawed.” Sarma was referring to the districts of Dhubri, Karimganj and South Salmara, which border Bangladesh and receive the largest number of migrants from the country.

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