Government approves granting citizenship to minorities from neighbouring countries


The Union government has authorised 16 district collectors across seven states to register as Indian citizens Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh under the Citizenship Act, 1955 — a move which the Congress alleged was aimed at garnering votes in the upcoming assembly elections in five states.

The order will come into effect from December 22. The districts include Raipur (Chhattisgarh); Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch (Gujarat); Bhopal and Indore (Madhya Pradesh); Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane (Maharashtra); Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur (Rajasthan); Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh); and West Delhi and South Delhi.

Elections are due in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram in November-December and results for all five states will be announced on December 11.

Granting citizenship to minorities who have fled these neighbouring countries has been one of the key poll promises of the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government. Thursday’s notification comes at a time when a move is afoot to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act, seeking to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India, instead of 12 years.

The amendment has been opposed in Assam and other north-eastern states and a joint parliamentary committee is examining the draft bill.

The Congress took exception to Thursday’s order, alleging it violated the Model Code of Conduct imposed by the election commission.

“The MHA (Union home ministry) notification has a direct bearing on poll-bound states. Hence this is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) should explain the rationale behind it,” Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said.

“On one hand, the BJP is creating political hysteria in the name of the National Register of Citizens in Assam [aimed at identifying illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh], and on the other, seeking registration just to create confusion and mislead the nation,” Shergill added, suggesting that the government was trying to win over Hindu and Sikh votes.

The government notification also says that the secretary of the home department of the concerned state or Union Territory will have power to register refugees from the three countries as Indian nationals in case the applicant is not a resident of the mentioned districts, subject to certain conditions.



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