Saturday, August 11, 2018

India's Citizenship List

Photo by Diganta Talukdar

Assam is a state in Northeast India. Since 1951, the state has had a National Register of Citizens or NRC. As the BBC reports, the NRC developed in response to nationalists' concerns that the Hindu-majority state would be overtaken by Muslim immigrants.

In 1985, after years of additional anti-migrant strife, the federal government of India reached an agreement requiring those living in Assam to prove their residency as of March 24, 1971, else be "expelled from electoral rolls and considered illegal immigrants."

Not much happened thereafter until a few years ago. The NRC was updated in 2016 and 2017, with a final version published this past December.

The BBC reports that some four million residents of Assam have not been included on this updated NRC. They are no longer considered citizens of India. Indeed, these individuals became "stateless overnight."

What are these individuals to do? First off, they can appeal. They can file additional documents to prove their eligibility for citizenship.

Might they be deported? That's unclear. Those on the list might be considered ethnically Bangladeshi but that nation will not accept them. Perhaps they will end up in detention centers, which Assam is expanding.

This developing story has striking parallels to the fate of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, and it is certainly one to watch for those interested in citizenship.


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