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Portal in NRC safeguard plea

Guwahati: Avaaz, the US-based community campaign portal that has compared the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam with the Rohingya genocides in Myanmar, has appealed to the NRC office to ensure that no one is rendered stateless, detained or deported without "fair trial" conforming to international standards.

Replying to an email sent by The Telegraph, Will Davies, campaigner, Avaaz, alleged that lack of proper precautions to prevent discrimination of minority groups, especially Bengali Muslims, during the NRC update had left thousands of its members from across the world "extremely concerned".

"The evidence is mounting that millions of Bengali Muslims in Assam could be deemed foreigners by the NRC process and rendered stateless and potentially detained indefinitely. This flies in the face of international human rights standards and India's own democratic values," the Avaaz mail said.

Avaaz's campaign, India: Stop Deleting Muslims, left officials in charge of the NRC update worried as more than 7.19 lakh Internet users from all over the world have signed the petition since July 12 and it is being fast shared on social media platforms. The NRC office launched a counter- campaign: Stop Fake Propaganda against NRC, Assam, but received only 1,800 signatures against its target of five lakh.

Claiming that India will delete the names of seven million Muslims in Assam from its citizen's list, the Avaaz petition said, "This is how genocides begin - how the nightmare of the Rohingyas began. But it's unfolding quietly....Husbands, wives and children could be torn apart and left to rot in prison camps."

NRC state co-ordinator Prateek Hajela challenged their seven lakh figure and the contention that those failing to make it to the final NRC draft would be detained or jailed. He said those left out of the draft NRC would get a chance to re-apply or lodge claims. He said the NRC was being updated according to a legal mandate and under supervision of the Supreme Court and there was no discrimination against any religion, as alleged in the Avaaz campaign.

Davies said the cut-off date of March 24, 1971 (as set in the Assam Accord) had been challenged in the Supreme Court by some local organisations and it was still pending.

Referring to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal's statement in January this year that those who are declared "foreigners" would be barred from all constitutional rights, Avaaz said in the email, "The Assam government's own white paper has also explicitly stated that a person who is not accepted for deportation by the Bangladesh border guards will be rendered 'stateless'. Given how complicated deportation is and the lack of any public statements of agreement between India and Bangladesh, this is a very real prospect."

Sonowal's statement had come after publication of the first NRC draft, which comprises 1.9 crore applicants, at midnight on December 31, 2017.

"If the NRC removes millions of people from its citizenship registry, does the state plan to incarcerate all of them forever? And will their political and property rights be stripped away immediately? The government's lack of policy, and indeed dire warnings such as the statement by the chief minister, are for good reason causing panic amongst vulnerable sections of society," Avaaz said.

The NRC is seen as a historic exercise to solve Assam's foreigners problem, which poses a threat to the indigenous population.

CM's plea: Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday appealed to the people not to make any provocative statement to inflame communal passions regarding the NRC update exercise. He also advised people not to be carried away by such statements.

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