Assam’s NRC: Bengali Muslims may face discrimination, say UN officials

Assam’s NRC: Bengali Muslims may face discrimination, say UN officials

Assam: Four United Nations Special Rapporteurs wrote a letter to Ms. Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister. In the letter, they expressed concerns over the increased anxieties among Bengali Muslim minority of Assam due to National Register of Citizens (NRC).

There are concerns that the local authorities in Assam may try to exclude genuine Indian citizens from the updated NRC, the letter claimed. It also seeks a reply from the External Affairs Ministry within 60 days.

It may be mentioned that the four special rapporteurs work under the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights and their task is to keep an eye on minority issues, racial discrimination, xenophobia etc.

According to the report published in Scroll, the complete draft of the register was supposed to be published on 30th June. However, due to floods in Assam, it has been delayed.

It may be noted that the aim of NRC is to identify the Indian citizens living in the State of Assam. The letter raises the concern about who do not fall in this category. It also mentioned the comment made by the local minister. He reportedly said that the aim of the process is to eject illegal Bangladeshis.

The letter alleged that Gauhati High Court’s judgment was misinterpreted. As per the judgment, the court asked the Assam Border Police to conduct inquiries and refer relatives of persons who have been declared foreigners to the Foreigner Tribunals.

It also expressed concern that wrongful exclusion of nearly two million names can take place during the current process of  NRC updation.

Citing the statistics, the letter alleged that the numbers suggest there was pressure from State authorities to declare more persons as foreigners. Between 1985 and 2016, out of 468,934 referrals, 80,194 people were declared foreigners. In 2017, 13,434 persons were declared foreigners, the letter claimed.

The letter also said that Bengali Muslims lack necessary means to prove their citizenship before Tribunals. The number of persons declared foreigners increased after new government assumed power, the letter claimed.

It also pointed out at Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 as it facilitates citizenship for six minority communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The letter also seeks assurance that the process of updating will follow India’s obligations under international human rights law.

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