By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi, Dec 17 (IANS) In wake of ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in various states, the Union Home Ministry has been working on a plan to provide Indian citizenship to all future migrants, including Muslims, “irrespective” of their numbers “if found eligible”, official sources said.
An official, privy to the development, however, said the amended citizenship act does not amend or alter the present citizenship process in any manner whatsoever and said “No” to a query if Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can never get Indian citizenship.
“The present legal process of acquiring Indian citizenship by any foreigner of any category through naturalisation (Section 6 of the Citizenship Act) or through registration (Section 5 of the Act) stays operational. The CAA does not amend or alter it in any manner whatsoever,” the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The official said that hundreds of Muslims migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have been granted Indian citizenship during the last few years. “If found eligible, all such future migrants shall also get Indian citizenship irrespective of their numbers or religion.”
“In 2014, after the settlement of Indo-Bangladesh boundary issues, 14,864 Bangladeshi citizens were given Indian citizenship when their enclaves were incorporated into the territory of India. Thousands of these foreigners were Muslims.”
The official also denied that any illegal Muslim immigrant from these three countries will be deported under the CAA.
“The CAA has absolutely nothing to do with deportation of any foreigner from India. The deportation process of any foreigners irrespective of his religion or country is implemented as per the mandate of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
“These two laws govern entry, stay, movement within India and exit from India of all foreigners irrespective of their religion or country.
“The CAA absolutely nothing to do with any Indian citizens in any way. The Indian citizens enjoy fundamental rights conferred on them by the Constitution of India. No status including the CAA can abridge or take these rights away. There has been a misinformation campaign. The CAA does not affect any Indian citizen, including Muslim citizens,” the official said.
The official reiterated that the usual deportation process would apply to any illegal foreigners staying in India.
“It is well considered judicial process which is based on proper enquiry by the local police or authorities to detect an illegal foreigner. It is ensured that such an illegal foreigner has been issued proper travel document by the embassy of his country so that he can be duly received by officials of his country when he is deported.”
In Assam, the official said, the process of deportation happens only after determination of such person as a “foreigner” under The Foreigners Act, 1946. “Then he becomes liable for deportation. Therefore, there is nothing automatic, mechanical or discriminatory in this exercise.”
“State governments and their district level authorities enjoy the power of Central government under Section 3 of the Foreigners Act and Section 5 of The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 to detect, detain and deport any illegal foreigners.”
The official, however, asserted that the CAA does not apply to any other foreigners, including Muslims, migrating to India from any country excluding Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
In a query how the CAA benefits Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian foreigners facing religious persecution in the three countries, the sources said: “If their travel documents like passports and visas are not in order or not available, still they can apply for Indian citizenship if they were persecuted back home. The CAA creates this legal right for such migrants.”
Secondly, the source said, they get faster route for Indian citizenship through the naturalisation mode.
“The minimum residency requirement in India would be only 1+5 years instead of 1+11 years as applicable for all other categories of foreigners.”
He also stressed that the CAA has nothing to do with National Register of Citizens (NRC) and it does not apply to Indian citizens, including Muslims.
The information was shared following incidents of violence across many states over the new Act.
“CAA has nothing to do with NRC and it does not apply to Indian citizens, including Muslims. It applies to only six religious communities facing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan,” said the official.
As per the source, CAA is a focused law and appropriate rules linked to it are being framed.
The new Act will apply to members of six non-Muslim communities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have sought shelter in India as of December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution.
As per the Ministry source, the migrants will have to fulfil all other conditions for registration, and naturalisation as Indian citizens.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])