Guwahati, India – Authorities in India are set to announce the final draft list of citizens in the border state of Assam, amid fear tens of thousands of Bengali-origin Muslims might be excluded from the tally.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated after nearly seven decades as part of a campaign to identify undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh, but critics say those not finding their names in the list might be effectively rendered stateless.
The NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela told Al Jazeera that the list will be published at around 10am (04:30 GMT) on Monday.
“People will be able to check their names through online and offline methods at 2,500 NRC Seva Kendras (service centres) set up across the state,” Hajela said.
The results can also be accessed via SMS on request, he said.
The final list will decide the fate of the 13.9 million people not included in the first draft that was published on December 31 last year, designating only some 19 million people, out of Assam’s 32.9 million population, as legal citizens.
The country’s Supreme Court – which is supervising the entire process – had initially set June 30 as the deadline to publish the final list. But this was postponed to July 30, as the massive exercise could not be completed in time.
What will happen to those who won’t be on the list?
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that the Indian citizens whose names are not included in Monday’s list need not worry.
“They will get adequate opportunities to file claims and objections pertaining to their rights,” Sonowal wrote in a post on Twitter.
Sonowal said that no one would be treated as a foreigner until the final updating of the NRC. He called upon the political parties to work as a team, adding that the government would provide genuine applicants with all the necessary support in filing claims and objections.
Coordinator Hajela said that people can apply for these claims, objections and corrections from August 30 to September 28.
“If their names are not in the final draft, it doesn’t mean that these people are illegal,” Hajela told Al Jazeera.
“This is just a draft and I’m telling you that these people will be given ample opportunities for claims and objections. So, there is no reason to fear.”
Still, people of Bengali origin, including both Muslims and Hindus, are in panic mode. Several members of the community have taken their own lives in advance of the July 30 deadline for the list’s publication.
“We are uncertain. We had to struggle a lot to get our names cleared as Indian citizens. We have submitted all the documents needed,” Jaymati Das, a villager in Assam’s Udalguri district bordering Bhutan, told Al Jazeera.
“Now, I don’t know if our names will feature in the final draft or not,” said Das, 53.
A few weeks back, Jaymati’s husband Gopal Das, 65, had taken his own life after he was also served notice to prove his citizenship.
Their two sons were also asked to prove their citizenships by the Foreigners Tribunal – a specialised court that handles cases of undocumented immigrants.
Authorities put Assam on high alert, with section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code imposed in seven of the state’s 33 districts. Under section 144, assembly of more than four people is prohibited.
Some 300 NRC Seva Kendras (service centres) across Assam have also been marked as sensitive, while 55,000 members of the police forces have been called into action.
More than 22,000 additional paramilitary personnel have also been deployed across the northeastern state.