With opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill showing no signs of abating in the North-East, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sought to allay fears Tuesday and said foreigners would not be granted Indian citizenship without the consent of state governments concerned.
The MHA also said that a proposal to “provide incentives to those people who want to settle anywhere in India, except the North East” is currently under consideration.
Home Ministry spokesperson Ashok Prasad said, “The mistaken perception in the North-East about the Bill is creating insecurities. The Bill doesn’t give automatic citizenship to anybody. It brings a certain category of people from particular specified areas into the consideration zone with certain eased conditions. No one will become a
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8 and has been introduced in Rajya Sabha, where the JD(U), the BJP’s ally in Bihar, has vowed to oppose it. The Bill is being opposed across the North East while in Assam, groups see it as a “threat” to the indigenous communities of the region as it goes against the Assam Accord.
The Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Christians, from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after they have stayed in India for seven years, instead of 12 years — the current criteria. This is applicable to those who came to India before December 31, 2014.
To ease concerns, Prasad said, under the new Bill, “the state government will do verification of all claims and make recommendations, and based on those recommendations only, the central government will act. No one will be given citizenship without the recommendations of the state government.”
He clarified that not everyone who comes from the communities mentioned will be eligible. “It’s only applicable for people who belong to these communities from three countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who have been subjected to religious persecution. The inquiry undertaken by the state government will try to establish the person’s claim for the country of origin and the individual claim for religious persecution. Once the person applying clears these two tests, the state government will consider and recommend his/her name for citizenship,” said Prasad.
Referring to protests against the Bill in Assam, he said that the process of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is underway while the Bill pending before Parliament only gives relief to those who came to India after religious persecution.
Asked whether people who have filed claims and objections under the NRC, will benefit from the Bill, Prasad said, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill does not apply to people who have applied under claims and objections under NRC. Their case is entirely different and they cannot avail citizenship.” He said the Bill is not Assam-specific and is applicable to the entire country. “There are large numbers of refugees who have come from Pakistan and Afghanistan who are settled in the western border. They will get major relief,” he said.
Officials said that the Home Ministry is also considering a proposal to provide incentives to those people who want to settle anywhere in India, except the North East. Earlier, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said the Bill will apply to all states and Union territories and beneficiaries can reside anywhere in the country.
“The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden and the government is committed to giving all help to the state government and people of Assam,” Singh had said.