R DUTTA CHOUDHURY
GUWAHATI, Jan 19 - Though different organisations of Assam and other states of the Northeast have been agitating against the Centre’s move to push through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Government of India has already regularised the stay of minority communities from the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh in India by providing long-term visa and amending the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act , 1946. As per the provisions made in the amendments and decision to provide long-tern visa, the persecuted minorities of the three neighbouring countries, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014 would be able to stay in India.
The Government of India decided to provide long-term visa to the minority communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and a standard operating procedure for the same was formulated in 2016. The members of the minority communities of the three neighbouring countries can apply through an online system with supporting documents for getting long-term visa. They will have to prove that they belong to the minority communities of the three countries and entered India before December 31, 2016. The applications from such migrants would be processed by agencies concerned before they are given long-term visa.
Official sources said that any migrant, legal or illegal, after they are granted the long-term visa, would be eligible for private employment in India and can have access to educational and health facilities. They will also be eligible to buy small property and dwelling, and have self employment opportunities. They will also be eligible for opening bank accounts and obtain Aadhaar cards, driving licences, PAN cards, etc., and can move freely within the states for which they will get such visa.
Meanwhile, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has asserted that providing long-term visa to foreigners would seriously harm the interests of the indigenous people of Assam and other states of the Northeast. The AASU also demanded that the government must withdraw the decision to provide long-term visa to illegal migrants along with the orders amending the Passport (Entry into India) Act and Foreigners Act.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said that though the people obtaining long-term visa would not have voting rights, in the long run, there would be a demand for granting them citizenship. Through the Assam Accord, the government promised to detect and deport the foreigners who entered India before the midnight of Match 24, 1971 and now it is trying to provide citizenship to a section of foreigners, who entered up to December 31, 2014. If long-term visa is provided to foreigners, a few years later, there would be a move to grant them citizenship, he said.
Bhattacharya further said that if foreigners are provided with long-term visa, their number would increase in the days to come and then the government would say that they should be granted citizenship on humanitarian ground. “That is why, the move to grant long-term visa to foreigners is not acceptable,” he added.