Guwahati: As a ‘follow-up’ to a letter sent in June this year, three UN special rapporteurs have now sent a second mail to the Indian government expressing concern over the update process of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
The second letter from the three rapporteurs was written on December 13 jointly with Elina Steinerte, the vice-chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in which they have taken particular note of the role of foreigners’ tribunals and detention practices.
The three special rapporteurs who wrote the letter are Ahmed Shaheed (freedom of religion or belief), Fernand de Varennes (minority issues) and E Tendayi Achiume (racism).
The rapporteurs may “publicly express” their concerns over the issue of detention as they have “sufficiently reliable” information “to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention”.
In the letter, the rapporteurs said: “It appears that after 2016, less stringent standards were imposed regarding the appointment of members of these foreigners’ tribunals, leading to an exponential rise in the number of persons declared as foreigners. Those ‘declared foreigners’ by the tribunals have no voting rights. Moreover, a large number of Bengali people have also been designated by these tribunals as ‘doubtful or disputed voters’, effectively depriving them of the right to political participation and representation, and resulting in their ‘on hold’ status in the draft NRC list.”
The rapporteurs accused the government of having no system “by which the detention of those designated as foreigners is reviewed”.
Though the UN officials expressed concern over the NRC and the working of the foreigners’ tribunals, they also stated in the letter that they “do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations”.
The three human rights officials were of the view that “the way in which the NRC update has been conducted potentially affects a great number of Muslims and persons of Bengali descent, as well as other minorities, who may be wrongfully excluded from the updated NRC because of their historical and continuing treatment as foreigners and illegal immigrants in Assam”.
Earlier on June 11, the UN wrote first letter to the Indian government expressing concerns over the procedure of NRC update. However, the government of India has not replied to the letters.