The external affairs ministry said on Thursday the process of deciding the fate of 1.9 million people left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is expected to be "fairly long" and they have the right to appeal to Foreigners Tribunals and higher courts.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also described reports of foreign journalists being asked to leave Assam as "false" and said the state was among four categories which members of the international media need prior permission to visit.
Asked at a regular news briefing if those excluded from the NRC would be sent to Bangladesh, Kumar replied: "We're talking about a process which is fairly long. We're talking about the tribunals, the legal process (of appeals) – high court and Supreme Court. It is too much into the future, let us not talk about what will happen and how the whole thing is going to be sorted out."
Some 1.9 million people found themselves out of the final version of the NRC published last month after an effort aimed at ending a four-decade movement against illegal immigrants, but whose outcome left even many of its original backers dissatisfied.
The Supreme Court-monitored process of updating the NRC for Assam, last compiled 68 years ago, took four years and 55,000 officials poring over 66.4 million documents.
Kumar described the process as a "statutory, transparent and legal" one mandated by the Supreme Court, and "not an executive-driven process". He said it was a non-discriminatory process and the people who were excluded were not "stateless" and wouldn't be declared foreigners.
He said external affairs minister S Jaishankar had clarified during his recent visit to Bangladesh that the "NRC process is an internal matter of India".