R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, May 16 - The statement of objects and reasons for bringing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 reveals the foreign nationals who entered India even without any valid documents can apply for Indian citizenship. This can lead to serious complications as there is no mechanism to determine who entered India from which country and the date for his or her entry into India.
In the statement of objects and reasons for the Bill, the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, persons belonging to the minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have either entered India without valid travel documents or the validity of their stay have expired, are treated as illegal migrants and hence ineligible to apply for Indian Citizenship. It is proposed to make them eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.” Moreover, such persons would have to stay in India for at least six years to become eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the decision to allow those who entered India without valid travel documents to apply for Indian citizenship may lead to serious complications. Sources pointed out that as there is no mechanism in India to determine which illegal migrant entered India at what point of time, any illegal migrant belonging to the said communities can apply for Indian citizenship if the Bill is passed and till date, the Government of India does not have any mechanism to determine whether the persons are giving correct information.
Sources revealed that the problem would not be so complicated in the states in the western part of the country as most of the persons coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan entered India in recent years came with valid travel documents and now they want to settle in India claiming that they were facing religious persecution in their own countries. Since such persons came with valid travel documents, the Government is fully aware of vital facts like from where they came and on which date they entered India. Moreover, the Government is fully aware of their numbers.
But the situation in Assam and other states of North East is completely different. If the persons who entered India without valid travel documents are also allowed to apply for Indian citizenship, it may lead to serious complications. Most of those who came from Bangladesh entered India illegally without valid travel documents and there is no way of determining who entered on which date and that was their place of origin. A person entering India illegally a day ahead can also claim that he came six years back, sources pointed out. Another aspect is that no agency of the Government has any estimate of the number of Hindu persons who entered India illegally.
Sources pointed out that illegal migrants from Bangladesh can even adopt different names to apply for Indian citizenship and a few such cases came to light during the family tree verification for updating the National Register of Citizens. If any law enforcing agency is given the task of verifying the antecedents of those who apply for Indian citizenship if the Bill is passed, it will be a Herculean task and would take years as it would mean initiating a thorough probe into the background of each of the applicants and the cooperation of the Government of Bangladesh would also be required. Such investigations will take years and if the Government gives citizenship to such person without any verification, it will lead to serious complications, sources admitted.