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The first draft of the NRC was published during the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 this year, containing 19 million names.

People wait to check their names on the draft list at the National Register of Citizens (NRC) centre at a village in Nagaon district, Assam state, India, July 30, 2018.

"No genuine Indian citizens need to worry as there will be ample opportunities given to them to enlist their names in the final NRC", he told a news conference in Assam's biggest city Guwahati. In February 1983, 2,000 immigrant Muslims were slaughtered in one night by machete-armed mobs in a brutal massacre in Nellie.

Fearing a backlash, federal and state security forces have been deployed in large numbers across Assam "to maintain law and order", in sensitive areas, Deepak Kumar, an inspector general of police, said over phone. Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said: "This is a means to divide the people of the country.

Saying they will be a given a chance to prove their citizenship is easy but doing so isn't so easy for them", said social activist Prashant Bora from Guwahati, the capital of Assam.

"The NRC [National Register of Citizens] is trying to finish us off". We are anxious because people are being made refugees in their own country.

Villagers wait outside the National Register of Citizens centre to get their documents verified
Image Villagers are having to get documents verified

Suban said both he and his father were born in Assam, and showed Reuters a soiled yellow document that showed his father's name in the list of voters in Assam for 1965, before the cut-off date.

People were asked to provide documents proving that they or their family members lived in India before March 24, 1971, but excluded those who arrived during and after the 1971 war leading to Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. Some people may not have been able to submit necessary documents. Almost all were Muslim, and many were children. They settled in Assam, which borders the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh to the south and is home to several rebel groups.

"Whatever work is going on in the NRC, is happening under the supervision of the Supreme Court". Applications will be taken till September 30 until which time no one will be considered an illegal immigrant.

On Wednesday, the federal home minister, Rajnath Singh, said that he had ordered the Assam government not to take any action against those whose names do not appear on the register.

According to the census, Assam's population rose by 50% between 1970 and 1979, a rise that has mainly come from the Bengali-speaking Muslim population across the border. The mammoth three-year-long exercise to prove the identities of 33 million people across the hills, valleys and plains of this verdant state began two years ago. "The allegation of the opposition against the government is baseless", Singh said.

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