New Delhi (CNN)Indian authorities have left the names of almost 4 million people off a controversial registry list in the northeast border state of Assam, effectively casting a shadow over their citizenship.
Millions potentially excluded from Indian citizenship in controversial registry
The publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Monday comes amid popular anger over illegal migration into Assam, which shares a porous border with Bangladesh.
Proponents of the registry say it will help root out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, but the move has prompted fears of possible deportation among Assam's hundreds of thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims.
The decision to impose a state-wide register of citizens has drawn parallels with Myanmar's Rakhine State, where Rohingya Muslims have long faced persecution owing to their Bangladeshi ancestry.
Last year, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were forced across the border into Bangladesh as part of a targeted attack labeled by the UN as ethnic cleansing.
Tensions over citizenship have been brewing for decades in Assam, resurfacing earlier this year with a government effort to rid the state of "Bengalis" and "foreigners."
Many of the state's Bengali community have lived in India for decades, crossing the border into Assam during the bloody Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) independence struggle in 1971. Many others can trace their history back even further, arriving before the independence of India in 1947.
Security has been tightened across the tea-rich state in anticipation of potential anti-immigration violence in the wake of the registry's release.
Out of the state's 32.9 million population, 28.9 million people have been recognized as legal citizens.
Assam is the only state in India to have a citizenship register. It was created in 1951 to identify Indian citizens from illegal migrants from East Pakistan.
The cutoff date to be eligible for Indian citizenship is March 24, 1971, a day before the onset of the Bangladesh Liberation War.