The exclusion of millions from the draft Assam citizenship list is a humanitarian crisis

THE exclusion of 4 million people from the draft Assam citizenship list represents a humanitarian problem of enormous proportions. The future of these potential stateless people hangs in the balance. Stripped of citizenship, they will become vulnerable and face threats to their lives, lands and livelihoods.

For those who have been living in a place for generations, the prospect of being sent to detention camps or being deported is hard to think of. Poor, illiterate residents were asked to produce pre-1971 documents as proof of citizenship. Strangely, even those who were in possession of Aadhaar and passport were left out of the national register of citizens.

They face the risk that they will be discarded as stateless persons within Assam — their home for years, if not decades or generations. Whatever the outcome, the issue comes at a very sensitive time, when Indian society is extremely divided, with mob attacks and lynchings becoming common, and with most of the victims being either Muslims or Dalits. The controversy over the NRC could add fuel to the fire.

This is how genocides begin — how the nightmare of the Rohingya began.