India will identify and deport illegal immigrants from across the country, the interior minister said, stepping up a campaign that critics say could stoke religious tension and further alienate minority Muslims.
An exercise to identify alien immigrants from Muslim-majority Bangladesh has been going on in the northeastern state of Assam for years, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government has taken it up in earnest.
The campaign was a key issue in this year’s general election, won by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party.
Critics accuse Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of a deep-seated bias against minority Muslims and say the campaign against illegal migrants is aimed at Muslims, and threatens to further marginalise the community.
The BJP denies the accusation and says it is opposed to the appeasement of any group.
While reinforcing measures against migrants slipping into the country, the government is trying to bring in a law that would simplify the process of getting Indian citizenship for immigrants from religious minorities persecuted in neighbouring Muslim countries, including Pakistan.
People in Assam are scrambling to prove their citizenship as part of an exercise to prepare a Supreme Court-ordered registry of citizens in the state. The list is due to be released on July 31.