Applications of as many as 88 individuals, who fled from Bangladesh due to religious persecution and sought Indian citizenship, are pending with the Home Ministry, according to records available with the MHA till September 2018.
Sources confirmed that more than 3,400 applications for request for grant of citizenship from nationals of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are pending with the state and Union government. Among these applications, around 2,600 are from Pakistan and 700 from Afghanistan. The sources clarified that the Centre does not maintain religion-wise data.
With the government introducing the 2016 Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament, the issue of grant of citizenship to six persecuted minority communities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before 2014, has led to massive protests in Assam and other parts of the Northeast. Following the protests — which were supported by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) — Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said, “Assam has borne the disproportionate burden of migration due to religious persecution in our neighbouring countries and Assam should not bear this burden alone.”
The Bill, however, will pave the way for thousands of migrants who came before December 31, 2014, to be eligible for Indian citizenship, which is against the Assam Accord signed in 1985. The online records available with the MHA show that as many as 605 people were granted Indian citizenship in 2015, 1,106 in 2016 and 816 in 2017.
“The online application for citizenship started in 2011 and prior to that the applications were processed offline. There are very few offline cases prior to 2010 which are pending with the MHA and state government,” a ministry official explained.
Ministry sources told The Indian Express that more than 10,000 individuals have been granted long term visa (LTV) in 2018 alone, out of 14,000 who had applied.
MHA officials said that 11,000 LTVs were issued in the last four years for persecuted minorities from Pakistan, but the data on those granted LTVs from Bangladesh and staying in Assam are still being collated. MHA had earlier relaxed norms for those staying on LTV, allowing them to buy property, open bank accounts and obtain PAN as well as Aadhaar cards.
The Centre has also empowered district magistrates and state home secretaries of seven states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi — to grant citizenship to Hindu minorities. The border districts in these states have a large number of persecuted minorities, said officials.
Under the rules, a district collector forwards the citizenship application to the state government within 60 days, and the state government is required to forward the application to the MHA within a period of further 30 days.