Four top United Nations officials have jointly written to the Indian government seeking clarifications on allegations of certain religious, ethnic and linguistic communities being discriminated against in the Nation Register of Citizens (NRC) updation process in Assam — and are yet to get a response from the Centre.
They have claimed that another communication in June this year on the NRC has also not been responded to by the government.
In a letter dated December 13, Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and E Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have written, “Please provide details on safeguards ensuring that members of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are not discriminated against in the framework of the NRC update and the determination of their citizenship status.”
The letter discusses the operating procedure of the ongoing claims and objections round of the NRC in details and raises questions as whether it will discriminate against certain communities.
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“We are particularly concerned that the way in which the NRC update has been conducted potentially affects a great number of Muslims and persons of Bengali descent, as well as other minorities, who may be wrongfully excluded from the updated NRC because of their historical and continuing treatment as foreigners and illegal immigrants in Assam,” the letter says.
Questioning the ‘claims and objections’ round of the NRC, the letter adds that “many of those perhaps unduly excluded from the list” would not get a fair change to prove their citizenship. “Finally, finalisation of the NRC in the current form, has left much uncertainty for those excluded, including fears of losing citizenship, statelessness, as well as fears of indefinite detention, or even deportation,” the letter adds.
The letter says that the difficulties in the NRC process could “create a massive category of people who are on Indian territory but cannot prove citizenship of either India or Bangladesh, thereby risking becoming stateless”.
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