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Assam NRC: What next for 1.9 million 'stateless' Indians?


India has published the final version of a list which effectively strips about 1。9 million people in the north-eastern state of Assam of their citizenship。


The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list of people who can prove they came to the state by 24 March 1971, the day before neighbouring Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan。


People left off the list will have 120 days to appeal against their exclusion.


It is unclear what happens next。


The register has been upxed for the first time。


Families in the state have been required to provide documentation to show their lineage, with those who cannot prove their citizenship deemed illegal foreigners。
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long railed against illegal immigration in India but has made the NRC a priority in recent years。



An anxious wait


By Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News, Assam

作者:Rajini Vaidyananathan,BBC新闻,阿萨姆邦

A small community centre in the village of Katajhar is being guarded by two members of the Indian army。 Outside, a line of people wait。 Some are clutching plastic bags containing documents。


As they enter one of two rooms, an official runs his eyes down a print-out to see if their names or photos are on it. This list - the National Register of Citizens - is one with huge consequences. And so there's fear and trepidation as people here find out whether they've been included.

当他们进入两个房间中的一个时,一位官员将目光投向一张打印纸,看上面是否有他们的名字或照片。这份名单——全国公民登记册——是一份后果巨大的名单。所以这里的人们在确认自己 是否被包括进来前,会有担忧和恐惧。

Many here who haven't made it tell me it's a mistake as they show me paperwork they say proves they belong in this country.


None of Asia Khatun's family of nine made the list. They now have the chance to appeal but there's real fear about what might come next. "I'd rather die than go to a detention centre," she tells me. People here are angry but they're also scared.

Asia Khatun 家的九口人没有一个进入了公民名单。他们现在还有机会上诉,但真正担心的是接下来会发生什么。

If people lose their appeals in higher courts, they could be detained indefinitely.
Some 1,000 people declared as foreigners earlier are already lodged in six detention centres located in prisons. Mr Modi's government is also building an exclusive detention centre, which can hold 3,000 detainees.



"People whose names are not on the final list are really anxious about what lies ahead。 One of the reasons is that the Foreigners Tribunal does not have a good reputation, and many people are worried that they will have to go through this process," Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, author of Assam: The Accord, The Discord, told the BBC。

《The Accord, The Discord》的作者Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty告诉BBC记者:“名字不在最终名单上的人真的很担心未来会发生什么。其中一个原因是,外国法庭没有良好的声誉,许多人担心他们将不得不经历这一过程”

Why have been the courts so controversial?


The special courts were first set up in 1964, and since then they have declared more than 100,000 people foreigners. They regularly identify "doubtful voters" or "illegal infiltrators" as foreigners to be deported.


But the workings of the specially formed Foreigners Tribunals, which have been hearing the contested cases, have been mired in controversy.
There are more than 200 such courts in Assam today, and their numbers are expected to go up to 1,000 by October. The majority of these tribunals were set up after the BJP came to power in 2014.



The courts have been accused of bias and their workings have often been opaque and riddled with inconsistencies.


For one thing, the burden of proof is on the accused or the alleged foreigner.


For another, many families are unable to produce documents due to poor record-keeping, illiteracy or because they lack the money to file a legal claim。


People have been declared foreigners by the courts because of differences in spellings of names or ages in voter rolls, and problems in getting identity documents certified by authorities. Amnesty International has described the work by the special courts as "shoddy and lackadaisical".

由于选民名单中姓名拼写不同或年龄不同,以及在获得当局认证的身份证件方面存在问题,法院已经宣布这些人是外国人。国际特赦组织(Amnesty International)将特别法庭的这项工作描述为“粗制滥造、毫无新意”。

Journalist Rohini Mohan analysed more than 500 judgements by these courtsin one district and found 82% of the people on trial had been declared foreigners. She also found more Muslims had been declared foreigners, and 78% of the orders were delivered without the accused being ever heard - the police said they were "absconding", but Mohan found many of them living in their villages and unaware they had been declared foreigners.

记者Rohini Mohan分析了一个地区500多个法院的判决,发现82%的受审人被宣布为外国人。

"The Foreigners Tribunal," she says, "must be made more transparent and accountable."


A decorated Indian army veteran, Mohammed Sanaullah spent 11 days in a detention camp in June after being declared a "foreigner", prompting national outrage.

Mohammed Sanaullah 是一名有勋章的印度陆军老兵,今年6月被宣布为“外国人”后,他在拘留营呆了11天,引发了全国的愤怒。

Both the citizen's register and the tribunals have also sparked fears of a witch hunt against Assam's ethnic minorities.


Have the minorities been targeted?


Many say the list has nothing to do with religion, but activists see it as targeting the state's Bengali community, a large portion of whom are Muslims.


They also point to the plight of Rohingya Muslims in neighbouring Bangladesh.


Human rights activist Harsh Mander, who visited two detention centres, has spoken about a situation of "grave and extensive human distress and suffering".

rq活动家Harsh Mander访问了两个拘留中心,他谈到了一个“严重和广泛的人类痛苦和苦难”的局面。

What happens to people who are declared foreigners?


The BJP which rules the state, has insisted in the past that illegal Muslim immigrants will be deported. But neighbouring Bangladesh will definitely not accede to such a request.


Many believe that India will end up creating the newest cohort of stateless people, raising the spectre of a homegrown crisis that will echo that of the Rohingya people who fled Myanmar for Bangladesh.


It is not clear whether the people stripped of their Indian citizenship will be able to access welfare or own property.


One possibility is that once they are released, they will be given work permits with some basic rights, but will not be allowed to vote.