Amended Citizenship Rules Likely To Be Enforced From Next Month: Sources

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New Delhi:

The contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, which gives citizenship to religious minorities from three neighbouring countries who settled in India before December 31, 2014, is likely to come into effect from next month — four years after it was passed — sources have told NDTV. Sources said the online portal is ready for registrations and dry runs have already been done by the Union Home Ministry.

The rule applies to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and will be implemented before the model code of conduct for the general elections comes into play. The timing is crucial, given the approaching election. Non-implementation of the law would have caused it to lapse. The time window extended till the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

The implementation of the CAA was a key electoral agenda in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and assembly elections in Bengal, where the ruling Trinamool Congress was opposed to it. In December last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared that the implementation of the CAA cannot be halted as it is the law of the land.

There are allegations that the move has been made to capitalise on majority sentiments.

Sources said the CAA will help refugees from these neighbouring countries who don’t have documents. The maximum number of applications for long-term visas which the ministry received was from Pakistan.

Powers to grant long-term visas  — seen as the precursor to CAA — have been given to district authorities already.

Over the last two years, over 30 District Magistrates and Home Secretaries of nine states were given powers to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

According to the annual report of the Union home ministry, from April 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, a total of 1,414 non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were given Indian citizenship by registration or naturalization under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The Citizenship Amendment Act — passed in 2019 amid massive protests across the country — made religion, for the first time, the test of Indian citizenship. The government contended that it would help non-Muslim refugees from three Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries if they fled to India because of religious persecution.
Critics said the law discriminates against Muslims and violates secular tenets of the Constitution.

Taken together, the CAA, NRC and the NPR unleashed a storm of protests across the country in 2019, before the Covid pandemic put it all on hold.

Before the protests wound up, the National Registry of Citizens, which was supposed to be rolled out across the country, was put on hold by the Centre.

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