NEW DELHI, Sept 11 - Stopping short of granting citizenship, the BJP-led NDA Government�s latest offer to the Hindu Bengalis is only a step better than granting of Long Term Visa (LTVs) to the displaced Hindu groups.
On September 7, the Union Home Ministry announced that the Central Government has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities there, who have entered India on or before December, 31 2014 from the relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946, in respect of their entry and stay in India without such documents or after the expiry of those documents, as the case may be.
The Central Government has accordingly issued two notifications in the official Gazette today under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946.
Though under pressure to grant citizenship to the displaced Hindu Bengalis, sources said that the Centre is only keen on giving LTV and not granting citizenship to those who came after 1971. Part of the Centre�s reluctance to grant citizenship is the cutoff date mentioned in the Assam Accord, admitted sources.
Over the last few weeks, several Hindu Bengali delegations have called on BJP Central leaders demanding citizenship. BJP national president Amit Shah was quoted as having assured that the Central Government would shortly issue an ordinance granting citizenship.
The displaced Bengali Hindus are also seeking an amendment to the Immigrants Expulsion from Assam Act, 1950, the Passport Act, the Foreigners Rules 1964 and Foreigners Act 1946. In Assam the four legislations are used by the authorities to detect and deport illegal migrants.
However, back on December 23 last year, the Home Ministry had convened a meeting with representative associations, especially of minority communities from neighbouring countries, to address their grievances related to granting Long Term Visa (LTV) and Indian citizenship.
Additional Secretary (Foreigners) in the MHA, BK Prasad had chaired the meeting of about 75 representatives from 15 such associations, including a few from Assam, to discuss problems faced by minority communities from neighbouring countries in grant of LTV and citizenship.
The teams of MHA officials visited 24 identified districts for citizenship in eight States and 14 districts for LTV cases of these applicants. The visiting officials held camps for two months. However, Assam was not among the States the MHA team visited.
The 24 districts relating to citizenship are Indore and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, Thane, Mumbai, Pune, Amravati and Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Ahmedabad, Surat, Kutch, Rajkot, Patan, Banskantha and Gandhi Nagar in Gujarat, Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer in Rajasthan, Sirsa in Haryana and Bangalore, Krishna and Karwar in Karnataka.
The 14 districts relating to LTV are Indore and Bhopal (in Madhya Pradesh), Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur (Maharashtra), Ahmedabad and Gandhi Nagar (Gujarat), Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer (Rajasthan), Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) and Bangalore, Krishna and Karwar (Karnataka).
Acting on directions of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the MHA had set up of a task force under the Joint Secretary (Foreigners) to monitor and expedite processing of citizenship and LTV applications, on September 5, 2014. The task force has since held interactive sessions in a number of cities across the country having concentrations of such people to monitor and expedite grant of citizenship and LTV and addressed public grievances.
The Home Ministry�s latest notification said that there are reports that a number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities there were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution. They have entered India without any valid documents, including passport and other travel document, or with valid documents, but the validity of such documents has expired.
The issue of regularisation of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India has been under consideration of the Central Government, the notification said.