Hardline members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party want to expand a controversial register that could strip millions of their citizenship, in a move aimed at attracting majority Hindu voters ahead of national elections.
A draft national register of citizens, or NRC, released in the eastern state of Assam last week identified around 4 million people, mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims, who could be classified as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Activists say the process puts many at risk of deportation and could stoke sectarian tensions.
While Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was forced by a Supreme Court order to publish the register, some state-level lawmakers have begun calling for an examination of illegal migrants across the country — from the state of West Bengal in the east to the political and financial capitals of New Delhi and Mumbai. And the divisive plan hasn’t been disregarded by senior leadership.