The ICJ, along with 124 other international and domestic civil society groups from around the world have condemned the actions of Indian government in publishing an incomplete and discriminatory Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) on 31 August, 2019.
The NRC excludes some 1.9 million people – nearly 6 percent of the population of Assam – thereby rendering them at risk of statelessness. The statement points to violations of rights to equality and non-discrimination, as the process has disproportionately affected Muslims of Bengali descent, undocumented women and children as well as other minorities.
The groups call on India to take measures to redress the situation in a non- discriminatory and non-arbitrary manner, with full regard to due process rights and a commitment to protect the right to a nationality and to avoid statelessness of all long-term residents and their children.
Arbitrary deprivation of nationality is a human rights violation, which undermines the enjoyment of the human rights of those affected and their ability to participate fully in society. International law prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of nationality and obliges States to avoid statelessness, while guaranteeing the right of every child to acquire and preserve their nationality and to be protected from statelessness.
In 2015, the Assam state government, pursuant to a Supreme Court decision, announced it would initiate a process of updating the NRC, requiring every person in Assam who recognized themselves as an Indian citizen, to submit proof of their ancestry (or birth) in the country pre-dating 1971, the year that Bangladesh was formed. The act of requiring individuals to prove their citizenship by providing documentary evidence dating back over 50 years, and excluding applicants on the basis of their inability to fulfill this evidentiary burden, has led to arbitrary deprivation of nationality, contrary to Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Further, poor birth registration rates, despite an obligation under Article 7 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child to immediately register every birth has denied numerous applicants of a critical piece of evidence to establish their citizenship. Similarly, many people who possessed the required documents, have nonetheless been penalized due to administrative errors.
Despite repeated calls to action by UN human rights authorities, India has refused to reverse the process and other States have done little to press the Indian government to reverse course.
Those excluded from the list must appeal within 120 days to Foreigners Tribunals (FT), a quasi-judicial institution mandated to determine citizenship. In essence, this implies that the government already considers those excluded from the NRC to be foreigners, and not Indian citizens.
Find the full statement, endorsed by the ICJ and 124 other international and domestic civil society groups from around the world here: https://files.institutesi.org/cso-joint-statement-on-assam-nrc.pdf
Maitreyi Gupta (Delhi), ICJ International Legal Adviser for India, t: +91 7756028369 e: maitreyi.gupta(a)icj.org
Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director, t: +66 64 478 1121; e: frederick.rawski(a)icj.orgNewsWeb stories