Indian government threatens to end citizenship for millions of Assam residents
Rohantha De Silva
9 August 2018
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government is threatening to eliminate the citizenship rights of millions of residents in the north-eastern state of Assam. The anti-democratic attack is in line with the BJP’s communalist program.
Over 32 million people in Assam recently submitted documents to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as required under the Assam Accord rules. When the NRC figures were released on July 30, over 4 million residents had been removed from the official list. The figure was confirmed by India’s Registrar General and Census Commissioner Shri Sailesh.
The Assam Accord was signed 33 years ago in 1985 by then Indian Prime Minister and Congress Party leader Rajiv Gandhi. It followed lengthy negotiations with the anti-immigrant All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP).
AASU and AAGSP had conducted six years of violent protests, known as the Assam Agitation, against so-called “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh, which shares a 4,096 km border with the Indian state. Migrants were accused of “plundering resources” and “taking jobs” from Assam residents. Over 1,800 people, mainly poor Muslim immigrants were killed in violent racialist attacks by chauvinist mobs.
Under the Assam Accord, only those able to provide documents proving that they or their families had lived in India before March 24, 1971—the year that neighbouring Bangladesh declared independence—are recognised as Assam citizens. Anyone entering the state after that date is classified as a foreigner.
While Assam is rich in natural resources—minerals, petroleum and forestry—poverty and unemployment is…