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Centre�s citizenship move may lead to complications

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, July 20 - The Central Government�s move to grant citizenship to people belonging to the minority communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan may lead to serious complication and confusion as the government has not cleared several vital points on the issue.

The government yesterday tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the Parliament, which made people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, eligible to apply for Indian citizenship. Earlier on September 7, 2015, the Centre has issued a notification saying that persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, who were compelled to take shelter in India due to religious persecution or who had entered India in the fear of religious persecution on or before December 31, 2014 without valid documents or with valid documents, the validity of which expired, would be granted exemption from the application of the Foreigners� Act.

However, highly placed official sources admitted before The Assam Tribune that the implementation of the Bill and the notification might led to serious complications as some vital points on the issue were overlooked.

Sources pointed out that the first point, which would lead to complications would be the Assam Accord, according to which, the foreigners, who entered Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971, would be detected and deported. The implementation of the Bill and the notification would lead to violation of the provisions of the Assam Accord and Assam is already witnessing strong opposition to the government�s decision.

The second major point is that the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951 is in the final stage and 1971 has been taken as the cutoff year for the process. Sources said that so far, no decision has been taken whether those who came to Assam after 1971 would be able to get their names included in the NRC. Sources said that as of now, those who entered India after 1971 are not eligible to apply for getting their names included in the NRC and if the government decides to give citizenship to foreigners, who came to India due to religious persecution in their own country, the whole process would have to be started afresh.

Sources said that lakhs of cases against suspected foreigners are pending before the Foreigners� Tribunals and a substantial number of them are Hindu migrants from Bangladesh. No one knows till date what will happen to them if the Bill and the notification are implemented and whether the cases against such persons will be withdrawn. Moreover, among the persons declared as foreigners by the Tribunals, there are a sizeable number of Hindu migrants and the government is yet to clarify whether the orders of the Tribunals will be revoked.

Official sources further pointed out that so far, no government agency has any record of the number of people who entered India due to religious persecution in their own country, which may become a major problem in the days to come. The government also said that those who stayed in India for seven years would be eligible to apply for citizenship. But as majority of the migrants came without any valid travel documents, it would be impossible to ascertain whether they stayed for seven years. Last but not the least, it would be impossible to ascertain whether the migrants came to India due to religious persecution in their own country or they infiltrated into the country for other reasons, sources pointed out.

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