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Millions of Muslims in India declared stateless

02.09.2019

Almost two million people in the Indian state of Assam are threatened with deportation to Bangladesh. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) declared 1.9 million Muslims living in the region to be illegal migrants over the weekend, according to Indian media reports. Many of those affected fled to the Indian neighboring region of Assam in 1971 during the War of Independence in what was then East Pakistan - now Bangladesh.

The NRC was updated for the first time since its introduction in 1951. It is a list of people who can prove that they entered the country before March 24, 1971 - one day before Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan.

Since the migration from Bangladesh, Assam has repeatedly been the scene of violent tensions between Muslim Bengali and indigenous ethnic groups. Many thousands of people have already died in the process. Human rights activists fear that the Muslims in Assam will now face a similar fate as the Rohingya in Myanmar. Members of the Muslim minority there are considered stateless "illegal immigrants". In August 2017, the Myanmar Army forcibly evicted more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long declared war on illegal immigration. Modi had given priority to the NRC in Assam in recent years. High-ranking BJP politicians such as Interior Minister Amit Shah describe Muslim immigrants as "infiltrators" and "termites" that should be "exterminated".

The BJP is the political arm of the Hindu extremist Hindutva movement, whose goal is a Hindu state of God and the expulsion of 170 million Muslims. According to political observers, these anti-Muslim policies are aimed at completing the 1947 violent division of the former colonial empire of British India into Islamic Pakistan and a Hindu India.

With a Muslim population of a good 34 percent, Assam is the state with the second largest number of Muslim inhabitants. Around four percent of the local population profess Christianity. A few weeks ago, Modi was the only Indian state with a Muslim majority to revoke its autonomy status from Jammu and Kashmir.

The Assam region is now threatened with a humanitarian catastrophe, warned the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) at the weekend. Nobody knows how it will go with those affected. According to the organization, six detention centers have already been set up. (KNA)