MUMBAI (Reuters) – More than 4 million people were excluded from a list of citizens released Monday by a census official for the northeastern border state of Assam in a long-running campaign against immigrants, fueling uncertainty about their future.
Villagers are waiting outside the National Register of Citizens (NRC) Center to have their documents verified by government officials in Mayong Village, Morigaon County, Assam, India, on 8 July 201
Resource-rich Assam, bordering on the Muslim majority in Bangladesh, finds itself in social and communal turmoil as its residents fight illegal immigrants, a struggle supported by the nationalist-led government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi ,
Out of more than 32 million people who filed documents proving their citizenship, the names of 4,007,707 were missing, said Sailesh, India's general registrar and census commissioner, a television news conference in Assam's capital, Guwahati.
"Upon completion of the review of all applicants, the full draft will be published," the government said in a statement.
Officials said security has been tightened across the state as thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims fear being sent to detention centers or deported.
Soldiers guarded government offices where thousands of people queued to check their names in the so-called National Civil Register (NRC), Reuters witnesses said.
The list was uploaded to a government website, but many in remote areas of Assam who had no internet connection traveled to government offices set up for the exercise to determine their status.
Four family members are not on the list, said Habibur Rahman, in the district of Sonitpur, about 200 kilometers east of Guwahati.
"I had submitted all the necessary documents," he said. "I'm surprised why the names of our family members were not there."
Critics see the citizenship test as a measure supported by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to evict minority Muslims.
"They are trying to isolate Muslims, the number that has come out is high and it's surprising," said Ripun Bora, the head of the opposition congressional party that campaigned for the minority cause. "We will carry it out."
The BJP denies any bias and says it rejects a policy of appeasing any community. The state's BJP spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but India's Interior Minister Rajnath Singh called the registration process impartial.
ASSAM A TINDERBOX
Assam has been destroyed over the years by waves of violence as residents, including tribes, have met with both Hindu and Muslim settlers accusing them of plundering resources and taking jobs.
Many people were hunted down and killed by armed machetes who attempted to expel Muslim immigrants in 1983.
There was no need to panic advised Singh on Monday, adding that those who are missing from the draft list could resubmit their papers.
"Some people unnecessarily try to create an atmosphere of fear," the Home Secretary told parliament. "I want to assure everything that there is no fear or fears."
In order to be recognized as a citizen, all residents of Assam had to submit documents proving that they or their families lived in India before March 24, 1971.
Sailesh, the registrar who uses a name, did not separate from those who had failed to make the list design, adding, "On the basis of this draft, it is not possible for anyone to be held in detention centers or alien courts
The government said those missing on the list between 30 August and 28 September have a chance to resubmit documents and have the opportunity to appeal to the aliens court.
"Although we have been told that we can re-apply to add our names to the list of citizens, we are worried about our future," said Nur Banu, a 45-year-old woman from Darrang. A family of six was missing on the list.
The first draft, published on December 31, confirmed that 19 million people were citizens. But the NRC told the Indian High Court this month that it would drop 150,000 people from the list – a third of them married women – mainly because they provided false information or inappropriate documents.
Some Hindus were also not on Monday's list.
The names of Samir Das, a Bengali-speaking Hindu businessman in Assam's eastern town of Hojai and his family, were missing, he told television journalists.
"We are real Indian citizens, and maybe there were some technical issues," he said. "We will re-apply and submit all documents required to prove our citizenship."
Letter from Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Clarence Fernandez