Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Nearly two million people in northeast India were told Saturday that they could soon be stateless after a massive citizenship check critics say is anti-Muslim.
The National Register of Citizens published the final version of a list Saturday that strips about 1.9 million people in the northeastern state of Assam of their citizenship.
They have 120 days to appeal their exclusion.
The list only includes people who can prove they came to Assam before neighboring Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan on March 25, 1971 to weed out illegal Bangladesh migrants.
Farad Ali, an illiterate farmer, who has only lived in India, found out Saturday that his wife was on the list, but him and his seven children weren't, sparking fear of family separation and prison camp.
Most people excluded from the list were ethnic Bengalis, whose families migrated to Assam over the past 100 years.
Lawyers and human rights activists added that the majority are Muslim.
The list sparked despair among India's minority Muslims as Prime Minister Narenda Modi's Hindu nationalist wave surges.
"I am more Indian than you," Ali told an Indian journalist before he began to cry. "I am more Indian than those soldiers standing guard."
A conflict between locals and migrants in Assam has stretched back for decades including the anti-immigrant clashes resulting in the Nellie Massacre of 1983 that killed at least 1,800 people from 14 villages in Nellie. A deal to bring peace after the slaughter included a mass citizenship check to identify the illegal immigrants.
The check is only being done now under Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party that has been pushing a Hindu supremacist agenda for India while stirring up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.
A preliminary NRC list published last year left off four million of Assam's 33 million residents, but most applied for reconsideration and Saturday's list showed about half of them have since made the cut.