Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal yesterday said all those excluded from the first National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft should not worry as no one will be discriminated on the basis of caste and community and will be given opportunities to prove citizenship.
He also said a mechanism has to be devised "humanely" by the central government on what to do with those who are found to be illegal immigrants after the finalisation of the NRC-- a list of the state's citizens.
"There is no question of discriminating against anyone whether he or she is a Hindu, Muslim, Bengali or Nepali," Sonowal told PTI, reports NDTV.
"No one will be victimised on the basis of caste and community.
"All will be treated equally and given opportunities to prove their citizenship so that their names could be incorporated in the subsequent drafts of the NRC."
The chief minister said the NRC has given an opportunity to segregate the bona fide citizens from illegal immigrants and it is a "win-win situation" for those who have been living under the stigma of "suspected illegal immigrants" for the last four decades.
"The government is working reasonably as per the Supreme Court order. Those who will be found to be illegal immigrants after the final list will also be treated humanely. A mechanism has to be evolved by the central government on what to do with them," he said.
The first draft of the NRC was published on the night of December 31 and January 1. Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated in the draft.
The massive exercise, aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state that borders Bangladesh, is being carried out in Assam following a decision in 2005 after a series of meetings between the central and state governments and the influential All Assam Students' Union (AASU).
Assam, which faced arrival of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, first prepared in 1951.
The current exercise, started in 2005 under the then Congress regime, got a major push only after the BJP came to power in the state with alleged illegal immigration from Bangladesh as a poll plank.
The SC, which is monitoring the entire process, had ordered that the first draft of the NRC be published by December 31 after completing the scrutiny of over two crore claims along with that of around 38 lakh people whose documents were suspected.
Of the 3.29 crore applications submitted, there was confusion over the inclusion of 29 lakh people who had submitted certificates issued by 'gram panchayats' as proof of identity, after a Guwahati High Court order in February had deemed 'panchayat' certificates invalid, an official said.
The Supreme Court set aside the High Court order and upheld the validity of the certificates as identity proof if they were followed up with proper verification.
The top court also asked authorities to stick to the original deadline for the publication of the draft NRC and include names of those whose claims were verified.
When the NRC was first prepared in Assam way back in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens then.
Meanwhile, the Indian government on Tuesday told the lower house of parliament that nearly 20,000 people were declared foreigners by the Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) in Assam and kept in detention centres, adds our New Delhi correspondent.
“As per the monthly report of disposal of cases in the tribunals in Assam, 19,612 D [doubtful/ disputed] voters were declared foreigners till October, 2017," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said in Lok Sabha replying to a written question.
He said issuance of notice to doubtful or disputed voters was a legal process and there is no question of harassing people. They are not detained.
"Only those declared by Foreigners' Tribunals as foreigners are kept in the detention centres," he said.
The junior home minister said as per the white paper on the foreigners issue, released by the Assam government's home and political department, during intensive revision of electoral rolls in Assam in 1997, the letter D (for doubtful/disputed) was marked against the names of those electors, who could not prove their Indian citizenship status at the time of verification.