India strips millions of Bengali-speaking Muslims of citizenship in Assam

India said it had excluded more than 4 million people from a draft list of citizens in the border state of Assam who could not produce valid documents, under a controversial draft citizenship list that has sparked fears of deportation of largely Bengali-speaking Muslims.
Security has been tightened across the state, which borders Bangladesh, as thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims worry about being sent to detention centers or deported, a Reuters witness said.
The tea-rich state of Assam has long been the center of social and communal tensions with locals campaigning against illegal immigrants, a fight that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government has championed.
In 1983, scores of people were chased down and killed by machete-armed mobs intent on hounding out Muslim immigrants.
The government said the draft was not meant to drive people out and those struck out of the list would have a chance to reapply.
“Based on this draft, there is no question of anyone being taken to detention centers or foreigners’ tribunal,” Sailesh, India’s census commissioner who uses only one name, told reporters in Guwahati, the state’s main city.
“Adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections. No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear,” said Sailesh.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled to India from Bangladesh during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s. Most of them settled in Assam, which has a near-270 km (165-mile) border with Bangladesh.
More than 30 million people had applied and 4,007,707 had been excluded from the list, Sailesh said.
To be recognized as Indian citizens, all residents of Assam had to produce documents proving that they or their families lived in the country before March 24, 1971.
Sailesh did not provide a breakup of people who had failed to make to the draft list.
Source: DS

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