The final Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) list was released on Saturday, 31 August, with more than 19 lakh people being excluded and a total of 3,11,21,004 found eligible for inclusion.
The NRC aims to identify illegal foreigners living in Assam, even as the MHA has clarified that the non-inclusion of a person’s name in NRC doesn’t amount to him/her being declared a foreigner.
Those left out of the NRC can file appeals before foreigners tribunals.
As the news broke in India’s northeastern state, how did various sections of the world media react to and report on the matter? Here are snippets:
‘It Is Unclear What Happens Next’
The Washington Post, in a long piece on the NRC list, headlined “Citizenship list in Indian state leaves out almost 2 million”, discussed the possible fallout/consequences of a citizenship list that sought to “weed out illegal immigrants”.
It highlighted the story of a Sayera Begum who reportedly jumped into a well (and was later dragged out) after erroneously hearing that her name wasn’t on the list. The newspaper also included interviews with other distraught “teary-eyed” citizens, and even included reminders of what the PM Modi-led government and “India’s powerful Home Minister” Amit Shah had earlier said on the issue:
“India’s powerful home minister, Amit Shah, earlier called Bangladeshi migrants ‘infiltrators’ and ‘termites’. The Modi-led government, which fully backs the citizenship project in Assam, has often vowed to roll out a similar plan nationwide,” the report read.
‘Possible Humanitarian Crisis’
“Rights groups warn of possible humanitarian crisis as those left off list face statelessness and detention,” wrote The Guardian’s in its reportage of Assam’s final NRC list.
The Guardian, apart from including interviews with the various directly-affected parties of the list, also quoted anguished activists and lawyers to the consensus that the path ahead was quite unclear.
It spoke of how the list was unfairly skewed against a number of people – women, for instance, who often lack access to necessary documents, and Muslims.
“There are concerns that Muslim communities could be worst affected. Separately from the register, the governing Bharatiya Janata party is pursuing a citizenship amendment bill, which aims to give citizenship to religious group such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others who are minorities in neighbouring countries – but not to Muslims,” the report said.
‘Amit Shah Once Dubbed the Migrants as Termites’
Al-Jazeera, in its article on the NRC list, elaborated on the difficulties of the legal process that is now facing the multitudes left out of the list.
“Rights activists say courts will be overwhelmed since the appeal period is short. ‘Imagine FTs adjudicating two to three million cases and they have been given just 120 days,’ Suhas Chakma, director of New Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group, told Al Jazeera. FT courts have been criticised for ex-parte judgments, a process of declaring people foreigners without trial,” the report said.
It also wondered whether the ruling party was using the list to target the Muslim community in the state (it forms one-third of Assam’s population), stating that:
“India’s powerful Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, who wants to implement the NRC at the national level, once dubbed the migrants as termites, a remark later defended by a BJP leader on an Al Jazeera show.”
‘No Bangladeshis Among Them’
Thus was headlined Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star’s article on the NRC list, quoting the country’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen who has said that he does not think those excluded from the final list of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) are Bangladeshis.
Momen also claimed that NRC was India’s internal issue and that “we have nothing to worry about”.
The Daily Star also quoted Border Guard Bangladesh officials as saying that they “stepped up vigilance along borders with India, especially with Assam, after the final NRC list was released yesterday.”