Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hinduvta government will reintroduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the coming session of Parliament, to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, after their stay in India for seven years, instead of 12 years at present.
The contentious bill had triggered massive protests in Assam and the rest of northeast, was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019, but the government did not table it in the Rajya Sabha as it did not have the required numbers in the Upper House to pass it, leading the bill to lapse with the end of the term of the 16th Lok Sabha in May last.
On Thursday, October 3, there were demonstrations in Nagaland's three towns, Kohima, Itanagar and Imphal, against the bill as millions of people face losing their citizenship in Assam where the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was introduced in August 2019.
'Citizenship list' in Assam sparks fears among millions of Muslims
Tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police were deployed in India's border state of Assam on August 30, the eve of the publication of a citizenship register that could potentially leave millions of people stateless, many of them Muslims.
Those left off the National Register of Citizens (NRC) face losing their citizenship, being put indefinitely into camps or deported, to the alarm of U.N. human-rights experts and activists.
The NRC, a record of 'legitimate' Indian citizens living in Assam, is being updated for the first time since 1951. The ostensible objective is to weed out 'illegal Bangladeshi immigrants'. However, the numbers tell a chilling story... one of a conspiracy of 'othering' and exclusion.
A draft version of the registry that was released in June left off 4.1 million of the more than 32 million residents of Assam state. Some people fled, while others took their own lives. Those excluded are presumed to be foreigners unless they can prove otherwise at one of the hundreds of tribunals presided over by people who are not judges, according to the Turkish daily Sabah.
It's unclear what will happen to those ultimately branded as foreigners because India has no treaty with Bangladesh to deport them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which is supported by Hindu nationalists, has said it could extend the exercise to other border states such as West Bengal.
The Muslim community in Assam has been subjected to multiple rights violations as they are considered foreigners by the Assamese community. Citizenship and illegal migration are volatile issues in tea-growing and oil-rich Assam, about one-third of whom are Muslims.
It may be recalled, in the Nellie massacre in 1983, around 2,000 Muslims were killed in a violent protest by a native Assamese group.UN raises concerns over exclusion of people from NRC in Assam
In June 2018, four UN Rapporteurs wrote a letter to the Indian Minister of External Affairs raising questions about possible discrimination against the Muslim minority.
The letter was written by Fernand de Varennes (Special Rapporteur on minority issues), E. Tendayi Achiume (Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance), David Kaye (Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression), and Ahmed Shaheed (Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief).
The rapporteurs have raised questions about possible discrimination against the Bengali Muslim minority, the controversial May 2 order of the NRC State Co-ordinator that asked the names of family members of a declared foreigner to be kept pending from the NRC, as well as a host of other issues.