India's Great Disenfranchisement - By Namrata Kolachalam - IAMC
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India’s Great Disenfranchisement – By Namrata Kolachalam

In May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide reelection victory after a campaign rife with anti-Muslim rhetoric, echoing the nativist appeals of other right-wing populist leaders from Donald Trump in the U.S. to Viktor Orban in Hungary. And just as those leaders have turned their rhetoric into policy, exacerbating the migrant crises in Europe and along the U.S.-Mexico border, India has its own crisis playing out in the northeastern state of Assam.

But the scale of the consequences in India may be far greater: By Aug. 31, Assam could strip citizenship from as many as 4 million people in what one human rights group calls the biggest disenfranchisement effort in history. Adding to the controversy, India still has not determined where these newly stateless people – many of whom have considered themselves Indian for decades – will go.

Ever since the 19th century, when India was under British rule, Assam has been at a crossroads of diverse cultures, as Muslims and Hindu Bengali-speakers entered the state from what is now Bangladesh. After independence, the demographics of the state continued to shift largely because of the porous border with Bangladesh, and anti-outsider sentiment rose among native Hindu Assamese speakers and longtime residents.…