New Delhi (CNN)A day after a controversial citizenship audit put a question mark on the status of an estimated 4 million Indians living along the country's border with Bangladesh, the Indian government faced scathing criticism from political opponents accusing it of trampling over human rights of its people.
Anger at plan that puts 4 million at risk of losing Indian citizenship
A draft of the so-called National Register of Citizens (NRC) was released Monday, 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 government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said it would not move to deport anybody, and would allow time for a lengthy appeals process for those left out of the registry.
Many of the Assam minority Bengali community have lived in India for decades, crossing the border into the state during the bloody Bangladesh independence struggle in 1971. Many others can trace their history back even further, arriving before the independence of India in 1947.
Modi's political opponents -- who forced Parliament in New Delhi to adjourn multiple times Tuesday amid a heated debate over the issue -- maintain the registry is discriminatory.
The principal opposition Congress party said it wasn't enough to allow people left of the list to file appeals. It called on Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to ensure that the process is fair -- and that it doesn't discriminate against people based on their religion, a concern voiced by many given Assam's multi-ethnic make-up.
"We don't want that anyone in our country who is a genuine Indian -- based on his caste, religion or his ethic roots -- to be sent out of the country. This should not happen. The onus should not be on an individual, the onus should be on the government as well," said senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
"It is not a political issue. It is a question of human rights. It is a humanitarian issue. It is a national issue. We need to look after Indian citizens," said Derek O'Brien from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, which governs the neighboring border state of West Bengal.