Parliamentarians see bid to appease Hindus from neighbouring countries

Under pressure from parliamentarians who objected to the NDA government’s move to grant citizenship to migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh on religious grounds, the Home Ministry has decided to add the nomenclature “discriminated” to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that was introduced in the Lok Sabha.

A senior Home Ministry official said it planned to replace the term “religious minorities” with “discriminated religious minorities” after parliamentarians criticised the plan to allow all religious communities into India, except Muslims.

Easy Citizenship for minorities of neighbouring countries
With this proposed amendment, the government plans to change the definition of “illegal migrants” that will enable it to grant citizenship to minorities, mostly Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who fled their country fearing religious persecution. 

The Bill creates an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, by reducing the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.

Certain Muslim sects outside the bill
Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas also face persecution in Sunni-dominated Pakistan but the Act doesn’t have provision for them.

Existing Provisions of citizenship Act
As per Section 2 (b) Citizenship Act, 1955, “illegal migrant” means a foreigner who has entered India “without a valid passport or other travel documents or with a valid passport or travel document but remains therein beyond the permitted period of time.”

The government has already issued executive orders to grant citizenship to minority communities from other countries and the amendment to the Act will give a legal backing to the entire procedure.

The registration fees for the citizenship of India has also been reduced to Rs. 100 from Rs. 3,000-15,000.