New Delhi/Washington: Expressing concerns over the NRC exercise, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said on Tuesday that close to two million long-time residents of Assam may soon be deemed stateless and alleged they are being stripped of their citizenship "without a fair, transparent, and well-regulated" process.
In a report on the religious freedom implications of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the USCIRF said 1.9 million names of residents of Assam have been left off the updated list and expressed concerns about how the exercise is being used to target and disenfranchise the Muslim population.
"Close to two million long-time residents of Assam may soon be deemed stateless. They are being stripped of their citizenship without a fair, transparent, and well-regulated NRC process," said USCIRF commissioner Anurima Bhargava, who testified before a congressional commission on the issue last week.
"Worse yet is that Indian political officials have repeatedly conveyed their intent to direct and use the NRC process to isolate and push out Muslims in Assam. And now, across India, political leaders are seeking to expand the NRC and implement different citizenship standards for Muslims altogether," Bhargava said.
USCIRF chair Tony Perkins said the updated NRC and subsequent actions of the Indian government are essentially creating "a religious test for citizenship" to target the vulnerable Muslim community, and urged the Indian government to protect the rights of all of its religious minorities as enshrined in the Constitution.
In its 2019 Annual Report, the USCIRF classified India as a Tier 2 country for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, egregious standard for designation as a country of particular concern, or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act.
The India chapter of the report expressed concern that the NRC is an intentional effort to discriminate and/or has the effect of discriminating against Muslims.