If panchayat-issued residency certificates are not considered a valid document for claiming citizenship, "lakhs" of Assam's woman residents will be deprived of their nationality, "turning India into second Myanmar", the head of a Muslim organisation has said. Jamiat Ulama-E-Hind president Maulana Syed Arshad Madani alleged that efforts were being made to bar lakhs of women from enlisting their names in the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in the northeastern state. At a press briefing here today, Madani pegged the number of women likely to be affected in Assam at 48 lakhs. The panchayat-issued certificate is a supporting document which indicates residential status of a married woman, who after marriage has left her parental place and is now living at the place of her husband, according to a statement issued by the Delhi Action Committee for Assam (DACA). The DACA organised the press briefing. A delegation of intellectuals from Assam, accompanying Madani during the briefing, however, said the number of women to be affected is 27 lakhs. The Gauhati High Court earlier this year ruled that the certificate issued by panchayat secretary had no statutory sanctity and could at best be a private document. The Jamiat and some other organisations have challenged the order in the Supreme Court. Madani, however, stressed that the problem of certificate arose after the BJP-led governments came to power at the Centre and in the state. "An effort is being made to prepare a ground to remove the women from the NRC. These are 48 lakh women... They will be deprived of their nationality," Madani said. Without naming anyone, he added, "...these people will be pushed out of India. The situation that prevails in Myanmar, they now want to make India a second Myanmar." He was referring to the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to other countries including India. "We want the world to know what is happening in Assam now," he said. Madani also insisted that the state government strictly adheres to the Assam Accord, framed in 1985, while the issue of citizenship is being decided. As per the accord, anyone who entered Assam on or before March 24, 1971 is deemed as an Indian citizen. "The NRC should be updated based on humanity and not religion...or else, the country will get destroyed.
We don't want to see that situation," he said. "They say Hindu women, being Hindus, will be allowed to stay even if they come by 2014. But the Muslim women, whose families have been staying for 400 years, they won't be given rights," he further alleged, without naming anyone. A political analyst from Assam, Hiren Gohain, differed with Madani on the number of women who will be affected in case the exclusion happens. "We agree with Madaniji on what he said about the situation. But it is a question of 27 lakh, not 48 lakh women... Why allow 27 lakh people to go into a kind of limbo," he said.
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