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HRC42 – MRG and others raise alarm at the situation in Assam, India, that “could now lead to the biggest mass disenfranchisement of the 21st century.”

10 September 2019

UN Human Rights Council, 42d session


General Debate – item 2

Tuesday 10 September

Mr. President, Madame High Commissioner,

Our organisations[1]echo your concern regarding the current situation in Assam, India, where 1.9 million people risk imminent statelessness and mass arbitrary detention.

On 31 August, the Final National Register of Citizens was published following an opaque, arbitrary and discriminatory process. This has left the citizenship status of approximately 6% of the state’s population in question, with Bengali Muslims and other minorities being disproportionately affected. Women, who are less likely to be literate or possess required documentation, as well as their children, have also been excluded.

The excluded now have less than four months to appeal. Yet the appeals procedures before quasi judicial Foreigners Tribunals – which lack due process safeguards and have been found to be biased – are unlikely to provide reprieve, and will lead to additional and considerable material and emotional costs. This process has already resulted in tragedy for many, from reports of death by suicide, to loss of livelihood, to families being split apart as a result of arbitrary detention.

Mr President,

Despite a series of communications from UN Special Procedures to the Government of India, the NRC progressed unabated. It could now lead to the biggest mass disenfranchisement of the 21stcentury.

We reiterate last week’s statement by 125 civil society organisations, and call on the Human Rights Council to urge the Government of India to recognise and fulfil its obligation to avert this human rights crisis by bringing this process to a closure in a non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary manner, with full regard to due process rights and a commitment to protect the right to a nationality, and to avoid statelessness of all long-term residents and their children.

I thank you.

[1]Minority Rights Group, World Council of Churches, International Federation for Human Rights, with the support of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, and Together 4 Good (India)