India to expel illegal immigrants from Assam

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India's ruling party Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) President Amit Shah addresses a public rally in Jammu, the winter capital of Indian controlled Kashmir, Feb. 24, 2019. (Xinhua / Stringer)

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s home affairs minister on Sunday said his government “will not allow a single illegal immigrant to stay”, as he visited Assam state where a controversial citizenship register sparked uproar from the almost two million people excluded.

The home affairs ministry, paraphrasing a speech by Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah in the northeastern state, said he was satisfied with the “timely completion of the process”.

“Shah… also added that the government will not allow a single illegal immigrant to stay back in the country,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had backed the National Register of Citizens (NRC), saying it was aimed at weeding out “foreign infiltrators”.

Shah, Modi’s right-hand man, previously said India must act against “infiltrators who were eating the country like termites”.

During his visit, Shah was expected to be pressed by the local BJP leadership for his government to pass legislation to protect the rights of what it says are genuine citizens excluded from the list.

While there are no clear answers as to how or why individuals have been included or excluded, bureaucratic bungling amid the mountains of paperwork appears to be one factor.

Assam, a poor and isolated state of 33 million, is largely surrounded by Bangladesh and has long seen influxes of migrants.

But under the NRC, only those who can demonstrate they or their forebears were in India before 1971 can be included in the list.

Shah did not make further comments about the NRC. Those left off the register have 120 days to appeal at Foreigners Tribunals, and if they fail, they can appeal that decision through the courts.

The national government has stressed that those omitted will not become stateless.

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