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Forum for refugee status to victims of religious persecution

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photo credit: www.thehindu.com

Guwahati: A forum in Assam on Wednesday suggested that the victims of religious persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan may be given refugee status instead of citizenship.

photo credit: www.assamtimes.org
photo credit: www.assamtimes.org

While saying that the minority communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who fled the countries due to religious persecution and entered India may be given refugee status, the citizens’ forum – Patriotic People’s Front, Assam (PPFA) said that the central government should not burden Assam alone with all the asylum seekers.

The political parties and civil society organisations in Assam are opposing the central government’s recent move to exempt the minority communities of Bangladesh and Pakistan from the provisions of rules and order under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946,

The central government’s decision has seemingly stirred a hornet’s nest in Assam with several organisations already calling shutdowns and holding demonstrations in the past few days.

The central government issued notification recently saying that it is further considering the issue of regularisation of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India, who escaped from the respective countries due to religious persecution, on humanitarian ground.

“The central government must clarify its stand at the earliest over the issue,” said PPFA secretary Rupam Barua.

“The PPFA also demands a concrete refugee policy with a legal framework to be adopted by New Delhi and urged the people of Assam not to get carried over by the ongoing debate of ‘granting citizenship to these minority communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan’,” he said, adding that granting mere refugee status does not mean granting citizenship to those asylum seekers.

“Even though a refugee in a country is legally allowed to enjoy some basic rights for life, liberty, equality, healthcare, primary education, work, they are not entitled to have the status permanently,” Baruah said.

The PPFA further argued that the process of providing asylum to these minority communities including the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Parsee nationals from Bangladesh and Pakistan should be temporary and that New Delhi must continue to pursue with the authorities in Dhaka and Islamabad diplomatically to help those refugees to return to their respective countries when the situation normalises.

(with inputs from IANS)

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Assam’s Citizen Register Raises Concern of U.N. Human Rights Expert

Assam, a state of 33 million people known for its lush tea estates, has for decades been racked by violence between indigenous tribes and settlers.

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Assam
A woman, whose name is left out in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, stands in a a line to collect forms to file appeals at a NRC Sewa Kendra (NSK) in Guwahati, Aug. 11, 2018. VOA

Three United Nations human rights experts expressed “deep concern” Thursday over a controversial citizens register in India’s Assam state, warning it could inflame ethnic tensions in an already fractious region.

A new draft Register of Citizens (NRC) in the northeastern state announced in July left off four million people, leaving them potentially stateless and facing an uncertain future.

Critics say it is the latest move by the right-wing party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bolster India’s Hindu majority at the expense of minorities. India will hold a national election next year.

assam
Bakrapara, Assam

The policy was introduced by the state government, which is controlled by the same BJP party in power nationally.

“We are… seriously concerned about the lack of clarity regarding what will happen to those left out of the finalized NRC,” said a joint statement from the UN special rapporteur on religious freedoms, Ahmed Shaheed, the rapporteur for minority rights, Fernand de Varennes and an expert on arbitrary detentions, Seong-Phil Hong.

“There is a risk that persons not part of the NRC could become stateless, be at risk of deportation, or be subject to large-scale migration detention,” they said.

The deadline to provide the necessary documents to be included on the register has been set for December 31.

Assam
Indian Muslim men shout slogans during a protest against tensions in India’s northeastern state of Assam, in New Delhi, India, Aug. 8, 2012.
Source:VOA

The current register includes only those who were able to prove they were in the state before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh’s war of independence into the state, and their descendants.

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Assam, a state of 33 million people known for its lush tea estates, has for decades been racked by violence between indigenous tribes and settlers.

“It is feared that this entire process is increasing inter-ethnic tensions in a region that has already experienced a tumultuous history of identity-based conflicts,” de Varennes said. (VOA)