New Delhi: Independent experts at the United Nations Human Rights Council have again raised red flags about the ongoing update of the National Register of Citizens in Assam to potentially harm millions of people, as well as reported plans to replicate the process in other parts of India.
“We are seriously concerned over the current implementation of the NRC update in Assam and its potentially far-reaching consequences for millions of people, in particular persons belonging to minorities who risk of statelessness, deportation or prolonged detention,” the experts said in a statement released in Geneva.
They also expressed “serious concerns” over reports of Indian authorities to replicate the “NRC model” in other parts of the country. Specifically, the UN experts highlighted the legislation passed by the Mizoram state assembly in March this year that would create separate registers for ‘residents’ and ‘non-residents’.
The three special rapporteurs – Ahmed Shaheed (freedom of religion or belief), Fernand de Varennes (minority issues) and E. Tendayi Achiume (contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance) – warned that this “process may exacerbate the xenophobic climate while fuelling religious intolerance and discrimination in the country”.
The three UN experts have also previously expressed their concerns about the NRC update process with letters addressed to the Indian government in June and December 2018. However, they have not received any response.
“We call on the Indian authorities to take resolute action to review the implementation of the NRC and other similar processes in Assam and in other states, and to ensure that they do not result in statelessness, discriminatory or arbitrary deprivation or denial of nationality, mass expulsion, and arbitrary detention,” the experts said.
The Supreme Court is monitoring the updating of the NRC, with the final list scheduled to be released on July 31.
The draft NRC list published last year on July 30 had left out 40 lakh people. Another exclusion list of 1.02 lakh person was released last month.
“In nationality determination processes, the burden of proof should lie with the State and not with the individual” said the experts about the “discriminative and arbitrary nature of the current legal system”.
They also expressed regret that the deadline of July 31 remains unchanged “despite the significant number of pending revision claims and objections, the complex NRC modalities, uncertainties about the membership of Foreign Tribunals and their procedures, as well as the reported inconsistencies and errors”.
A “lack of clarity” between the NRC process, electoral process information and the separate judicial processes of citizenship determination before the Assam Foreigners’ Tribunals, had also added “to the complexity of the whole process and opens the door to arbitrariness and bias”, stated the UN experts.