Sunday, September 01, 2019

No longer Indians

1.9 million people in Assam in north-east India face the threat of statelessness and detention after they were excluded from an official list designed to dermine who was an illegal immigrant and who was not. Anyone excluded from the final list has 120 days to appeal against the decision through a foreigners tribunal, but campaigners say these bodies are vulnerable to political pressures and have produced arbitrary judgments.

Teesta Setalvad, the secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace, a group that is supporting affected communities, said the tribunals should be made more transparent, and that a more realistic deadline for appeals is needed.

It is a nightmare. I cannot even think of how it is going to be possible,” she said.“If the authorities are serious about a proper and fair process they should not hold the threat of a time-bound process over the heads of poor and unlettered people.”

Amnesty International said it was unrealistic to expect people from the poorest communities, who may have been internally displaced by violence or natural disasters, to preserve half a century-old records.
The process is also weighed against women, campaigners said, because they often lack access to necessary documents, and because the ones they do have are incorrectly given less weight by authorities.

Eligibility Criteria was set as:
>> Persons whose names appear in NRC, 1972
>> Persons whose names appear in any of the Electoral Rolls up to 24 March (midnight), 1971.
>> Descendants of the above persons.
>> Persons who came to Assam on or after 1 January 1966 but before 25 March 1971 and registered themselves in accordance with the rules made by the Central Government with the Foreigners Registration Regional Officer (FRRO) and who have not been declared as illegal migrants or foreigners by the competent authority.
>> People who are original inhabitants of Assam and their children and descendants who are citizens of India provided their citizenship is ascertained beyond a reasonable doubt by the registering authority.
>> ‘D’ voters can apply for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC. However, their names will be finally included only when the appropriate Foreigner Tribunal declares them as non-foreigners.
>> Persons who can provide any one of the documents issued up to midnight of 24 March 1971 as mentioned in the list of documents admissible for citizenship.
>>All Indian Citizens including their children and descendants who have moved to Assam post 24 March 1971 would be eligible for inclusion in the updated NRC on adducing satisfactory proof of residence in any part of the country (outside Assam) as on 24 March 1971.
>> All members of the Tea Tribes shall be covered under ‘Original inhabitants of Assam’ category provided for under Clause 3(3) of the Schedule of The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
>> All such original inhabitants shall be included on the basis of proof to the satisfaction of the Registering Authority. On the establishment of the citizenship of such persons beyond a reasonable doubt, their names shall be in the updated NRC.
In a country where the Prime Minister himself can not produce his university degree certificate how is it possible to bring out documents from five decades back?

Aakar Patel, the head of Amnesty International India, warned the state of Assam is “on the brink of a crisis which would not only lead to a loss of nationality and liberty of a large group of people but also erosion of their basic rights”.

Assam has six detention camps that operate out of make-shift facilities in local prisons in Goalpara, Dhibrugarh, Silchar, Tezpur, Jorhat and Kokrajhar. The state is proposing to build 10 more detention centers to hold the additional persons excluded from the NRC. No country is going to absorb them. The lives of 1.9 million people lie in peril. India should give them citizenship.

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