- 4 million people from Assam excluded from National Register of Citizens
- Won't wait for final list, will publish voter list in January: OP Rawat
- BJP has been accused of targeting those excluded for political reasons
Those left out of a new list of citizens in Assam "need not worry" for now; they can vote if their names are on the electoral rolls and they meet all other conditions, India's top election officer said on Wednesday.
The exclusion of four million people from the draft list or National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam in a drive against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has sparked a massive political controversy.
The ruling BJP has been accused of targeting these people for political reasons, ahead of a string of state elections and the 2019 national polls.
"Those left out of the Assam citizen's list can vote if their names are in the voter's list and they fulfill all conditions. The Election Commission will publish a voter list in January and will not wait for the final NRC," Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat told NDTV.
"Nothing changes now," he said, adding that the election panel is coordinating with the NRC.
The chief election commissioner said it was "premature" to think about whether 40 lakh people can vote. "There are permutations and combinations. Many of them may be below 18," he said.
The draft National Register of Citizens is the result of years of agitation by many in Assam demanding expulsion of immigrants from Bangladesh just over the border.
Exclusions from the list released on Monday gave fresh ammo to opposition parties against the government.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday warned against "civil war and bloodbath". Her Trinamool Congress led a protest by lawmakers from seven political parties, who held placards demanding "Stop this divide and rule policy" and "Why have Indian citizens become refugees in their own country?"
BJP President Amit Shah hit back at the opposition, saying his party was the only one that dared to take a firm stance against illegal immigration.
The government has repeatedly said that no action will be taken against those not included in the draft list and people will have a chance to prove their citizenship till September. The Supreme Court confirmed it yesterday.
A final list is expected in December, but rights activists fear it might strip citizenship from many, especially Muslims, who have lived in the region for decades.