Nov. 20 (UPI) -- India Home Minister Amit Shah said Wednesday a government registry will regularly perform a national count of all Indian citizens to search for migrants -- drawing concern that the process could unfairly target Muslim minorities.
Shah said the count, officially called the National Register of Citizens, missed about 2 million Bengali people during a population check in Assam earlier this year. Those who are excluded can appeal to the government.
The NRC was established in Assam in 1971 to locate undocumented migrants, mainly from Bangladesh, and deport them. Wednesday's move expands the program nationally.
Shah said religious communities should not be concerned with the expansion.
Activist Harsh Mander, however, argues the change could have "catastrophic consequences," since it requires persons living in India to produce decades worth of citizenship documentation.
"NRC is a communal act which clearly means that only Muslims will have to prove their citizenship in this country," he said. "This will destroy the secular, democratic and republic structure of India."
Ruling lawmaker Sudhanshu Mittal defended the move, saying it's necessary to identify persons who shouldn't be in India.
"If Shah wants to identify illegal citizens, what is wrong with that?" Mittal said. "This exercise is not to identify Muslims, but those who are non-citizens.
"Giving NRC an anti-Muslim twist is perversion."