The Indian government is working on an ordinance to amend the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to “persecuted” Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Primarly aimed at Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who have crossed over into Assamd and West Bengal in large numbers, the ordinance will cover refugees from all three nations. Assembly polls are due in both eastern states next year and ruling party BJP hopes the move will brighten its electoral prospects.
The government is currently in works on a policy paper on the modalities of granting natural citizenship to the refugees. The complicated and contentious part, according to sources involved in the process, is to work out who to include and on what basis to include them as citizens. A task force set up by the home ministry is also working on how to grant citizenship to the scores of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Chakma refugees.
Anticipating commotion and opposition in the Parliament, BJP may bring a bill in the winter session to send a message to Bangladeshi refugees living in Assam without proper documents that it intends to include them in the system. The process of including Hindu Bengali refugees in Assam starts with verifications to update the National Register of Citizens in the state that begins soon, and only applicable in Assam. With the verification for NRC to commence, “those who do not have any documents to show that they are residents are being subjected to harassment. Many Bengali Hindu migrants are affected by it and hence the urgency for their inclusion,” said a senior BJP leader.
“They are living as faceless, identity-less people as they do not have any identification proof, so we are asking the government to include them without asking for identity papers. They are minorities in Bangladesh and Pakistan and have been persecuted there... they ran away without any papers.”