In a fraught exercise, which aims to identify and root out “illegal migrants” from Assam, 40 Lakh people have been left out of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). While this may render almost 4 million people stateless, without any rights and privileges, the move could also pave way to one of the biggest humanitarion crisis in the world.
Assam's choice to retroactively strip more than 40 lakh of its residents of citizenship will create the largest stateless population in the whole world. That would mean that Assam's stateless population will be almost five times higher than that of the Rohingyas (10 Lakh) in Myanmar, which currently constitute 10 percent of all stateless people in the world. The other four countries with world's largest stateless population are Côte d’Ivoire (7 Lakh), Thailand (5 Lakh) Syria (3.6 Lakh) and Latvia (2.6 Lakh).
According to the United Nations refugee agency, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are stateless, including three million officially, a status that deprives them of an identity, rights, and often jobs. If the numbers from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) hold, this scenario could change. Assam's stateless population then could constitute almost one third of the whole world's stateless population.
Once stateless people have been pushed out of their former homes, they have no claim on any country in the world, which means that no nation offers them a place to settle and be their citizens. For example, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been in limbo after escaping Myanmar. Although they have been given shelter in temporary camps, including India, they have no nation to belong to. If Assam expels its newly stateless residents, they may also find that they have nowhere to legally live.
The NRC is a list of people who cannot prove they came to the state before 24 March 1971, when Bangladesh was created. Officials have said the process is to root out hordes of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, but it has sparked fears of a witch hunt against ethnic minorities in Assam. However, fearing violence, officials have said that no one will face immediate deportation and an appeal process will be available to all those who name doesn't feature in the NRC list.