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India asks four million people to prove nationality

The application process for inclusion in India’s national register started in 2015.

India has released a final draft of a list of its citizens in the north-eastern state of Assam, leaving some four million people to prove their Indian nationality.

It says hundreds of thousands of people have illegally entered the country from neighbouring Bangladesh over decades and settled down in the north east.

Bangladesh rejects the claim.

The application process for inclusion in India’s national register started in 2015.

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People wait to check if their names are included in the National Register of Citizens in Bur Gaon village, east of Gauhati, India (Anupam Nath/AP)

Of 32.9 million applicants, the names of 28.9 million have been approved and included in the draft, India’s registrar general Sailesh told reporters in Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.

Sailesh said more than four million who have been left out can file appeals by September 30 and prove their Indian nationality by providing documents.

Until then, no-one will be declared an illegal migrant.

“Adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections. No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear,” said Sailesh.

Allegations of illegal movement of people from India’s porous border with Bangladesh have triggered sectarian tensions between the state’s indigenous population and Bengali-speaking Muslims.

Hundreds of Bengali-speaking Muslims whose nationality is suspect are living in half a dozen detention camps in Assam state.

People were asked to provide documents proving that they or their family members lived in India before March 24 1971, but excluded those who arrived during and after the 1971 war leading to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.

The final national register containing the names of only Indian nationals after weeding out illegal migrants will be published after the disputed claims are settled.

“Nowhere else in India have we carried out such an exercise to have a list of (Indian) nationals,” said National Register of Citizens co-ordinator Prateek Hajela.

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