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Pakistan, Bangladesh refugees may get citizenship

| NAMRATA BIJI AHUJA
Published : Dec 26, 2015, 11:42 pm IST
Updated : Dec 26, 2015, 11:42 pm IST

The Modi government is all set to grant citizenship to members of the minority community in Bangladesh and Pakistan who have fled those countries due to religious persecution and have been compelled t

The Modi government is all set to grant citizenship to members of the minority community in Bangladesh and Pakistan who have fled those countries due to religious persecution and have been compelled to seek shelter in India. The Union home ministry is ready with amendments to the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 to facilitate the move. Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in May last year, several steps, including issuance of long-term visas (LTV) for these refugees, have been initiated.

In September this year, India had decided to allow minority refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan to stay in the country even after expiry of their visas on humanitarian grounds. Now, the home ministry is all prepared to tweak the law to make considerable room for granting them Indian citizenship. The draft law says that such persons belonging to the minority community in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, who enter India without a valid passport and other documents shall not be treated as “illegal migrants” for the purpose of this act.

The proposed amendments have been circulated for comments from the public and other stakeholders within one month following which the MHA will go ahead with the move.

Though there is no exact figure to determine the number of such minority refugees from these countries, officials peg the figure at roughly around two lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan living in the country. Home minister Rajnath Singh has announced a slew of measures in the last few months to ease grant of citizenship to such refugees, including rolling out an online system for LTV applications and their processing by various security agencies. While there are around 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner, Hindu refugees from Bangladesh are mostly residing in West Bengal and some of the north-eastern states.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi