A letter to the Indian government as “a follow-up to the previous letter” have been written by three UN special rapporteurs on minority issues and freedom of religion or belief . The letter is a follow up of the previous one they sent in June expressing concern over updating of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
India, on its part, hasn’t replied to the earlier letter yet. The rapporteurs said they “may publicly express” their concerns “in the near future” on the issue as they have “sufficiently reliable” information “to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention.”
The latest letter by the three rapporteurs written on December 13 jointly with the vice-chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention particularly expressed concern over the “role of Foreigners’ Tribunals and detention practices”.
The letter said: “It appears that after 2016, less stringent standards were imposed regarding the appointment of members of these Foreigners’ Tribunals, leading to an exponential rise in the number of persons declared as foreigners. Those ‘declared foreigners’ by the Tribunals have no voting rights. Moreover, a large number of Bengali people have also been designated by these Tribunals as “doubtful or disputed voters”, effectively depriving them of the right to political participation and representation, and resulting in their “on hold” status in the draft NRC list.”
“We are particularly concerned that the way in which the NRC update has been conducted potentially affects a great number of Muslims and persons of Bengali descent, as well as other minorities, who may be wrongfully excluded from the updated NRC because of their historical and continuing treatment as foreigners and illegal immigrants in Assam,” the letter says.
Questioning the ‘claims and objections’ round of the NRC, the letter adds that “many of those perhaps unduly excluded from the list” would not get a fair change to prove their citizenship. “Finally, finalisation of the NRC in the current form, has left much uncertainty for those excluded, including fears of losing citizenship, statelessness, as well as fears of indefinite detention, or even deportation,” the letter adds.
The letter says that the difficulties in the NRC process could “create a massive category of people who are on Indian territory but cannot prove citizenship of either India or Bangladesh, thereby risking becoming stateless”.
(Featured image : The Hindu)