New York Times: India sets up special tribunals to strip citizenship of Assam Muslims


The New York Times newspaper published a report in which it talked about the Indian formation of tribunals to strip citizenship from Indian Muslims in the predominantly Muslim region of Assam.

The report mentioned that for two years, Mamoni Rajkumari, a lawyer, spent her days deciding who was an Indian citizen and who was not, as part of a tribunal reviewing suspected foreigners in the state of Assam. Then, she says, she was dismissed for not declaring enough Muslims to be noncitizens.

Rajkumari said, about two million of Assam’s 33 million residents, many of them desperately poor, were possibly foreigners.

The New York Times interviewed one current and five former members of the Assam tribunals that review suspected foreigners. The five former members said they had felt pressured by the government to declare Muslims to be noncitizens. Three of them, including Ms. Rajkumari, said they were fired because they did not do so. 

State and central government officials declined to comment.

Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has its roots in a Hindu nationalist worldview, and during last year’s national elections, party leaders vowed to apply the same type of citizenship checks used in Assam to the rest of India. Mr. Modi has recently denied he has any such plans.

Like Assam, India is majority Hindu, with a large Muslim minority. In December, India’s national government passed a sweeping new immigration law that gives a fast track to citizenship for undocumented migrants from nearby countries as long as they are Hindu or one of five other religions. Muslims are excluded. 

The upshot is that any Hindus left off Assam’s citizenship lists after its broad review, or declared by tribunals to be foreigners, will likely be affirmed as citizens because of the new immigration law. Muslims may not.

“Increasingly, it is looking like Muslims are becoming a target,” said Binod Khadria, an expert on migration who is a former professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “It’s a charged situation.” 

Even before the citizenship review, an indigenous rights movement in Assam, in northeast India on the border of Bangladesh, had been agitating for the government to expel foreigners.


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