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Nearly five million in India’s Assam at risk of citizenship loss

NEW DELHI: Nearly five million people in India’s eastern state of Assam face the threat of deportation after a top government official said they have failed to provide documentation proving that their families lived there prior to 1971.
According to a report of Al-Jazeeera TV, the risk comes as the government of Assam prepares to publish a preliminary list of citizens to incorporate into its National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Authorities say the updating process – carried out for the first time in six decades – is aimed at detecting and deporting undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.
But critics have condemned the effort, saying it threatens to make Muslim citizens and long-term refugees of Bangladeshi origin stateless – similar to Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya minority.
Assam is home to more than 32 million people, about a third of whom are Muslims.
Prateek Hajela, the official tasked with updating Assam’s NRC, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that some 4.8 million people in Assam “have failed to provide appropriate legacy documents” in advance of the preliminary list’s publication on Saturday – the second time such a list is being published, the first being at the beginning of the year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which came to power in Assam in 2016, has vowed to expel people who are not listed on the NRC.
“All those whose names do not figure in the NRC will have to be deported,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s finance and health minister, told reporters on Wednesday, without clarifying where those affected would be expelled to.
He said the local government has mobilised more than 40,000 police officers and paramilitary troops in the border state before the preliminary list’s publication.

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