1st batch of 300 granted citizenship under CAA | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

1st batch of 300 granted citizenship under CAA

ByNeeraj Chauhan, New Delhi
May 16, 2024 06:43 AM IST

Amit Shah said it was a historic day as the decades-long wait of those who faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan was now over

The Centre on Wednesday granted the first batch of citizenship certificates to over 300 people under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the event coming in the middle of a high-stakes general election where the controversial law is a livewire campaign issue in key provinces.

Applicants with their citizenship certificates handed over by Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI)
Applicants with their citizenship certificates handed over by Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI)

Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla handed over the certificates to the 14 individuals at a ceremony in Delhi after their applications were processed online through a designated portal. Officials familiar with the developments said several hundred other certificates – at least 300 in all – were sent to eligible persons through email on Wednesday.

“Home secretary congratulated the applicants and highlighted salient features of the citizenship (amendment) rules, 2024,” the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said in a statement.

The process of verification and granting of citizenship will continue over the next few weeks as and when the applications are decided by the empowered committee formed by MHA to look into citizenship requests.

“Although I had been living here since 2013, today I feel I belong to this country. I can now freely call it my own and roam anywhere without any fear,” said Seetal Das, a 38-year-old refugee from Sindh in Pakistan who now lives in north Delhi’s Manju ka Tilla and was among the first people to receive the citizenship certificate.

Asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered on another commitment – referring to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slogan ‘Modi Ki guarantee’ – Union home minister Amit Shah said it was a historic day as the decades-long wait of those who faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan was now over.

“I express my gratitude to Modiji for giving justice and rights to these people who suffered for decades. I also assure all my refugee brothers and sisters that the Modi government will give citizenship to all of them through the CAA,” Shah said on X in Hindi.

He added that the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christians who fled religious persecution in the three countries have started getting Indian citizenship and Modi has fulfilled the promise made at the time of the country’s independence.

The Opposition did not immediately react to the development. At a rally in Chinsurah, Hooghly district, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday vowed to repeal, among other controversial laws, the CAA and added that the TMC will support the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc to form a government at Centre.

The law was cleared by Parliament four years ago amid sweeping protests, but implemented in March, with just weeks to go for the Lok Sabha polls.

CAA is a major election issue in several key provinces, especially in Assam and West Bengal where the BJP has promised marginalised communities such as Dalits full citizenship under the law and accused previous governments run by the Congress of neglecting refugees from neighbouring countries.

Though elections are completed in Assam, the next phase on May 20 in Bengal will see key seats such as Bongaon, where the Matua community (a Dalit sub-sect that comprises many people who came from erstwhile East Pakistan) holds sway.

The home ministry notified Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, on March 11 this year, paving the way for granting citizenship to persecuted minorities belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

The rules envisage the manner of application form, the procedure for processing applications by the District Level Committee (DLC), and the scrutiny and grant of citizenship by the state level Empowered Committee (EC).

To mark the granting of citizenship on Wednesday, Bhalla handed over the certificates to the 14 individuals – three of them from Das’s family currently living in a refugee camp at Majnu Ka Tilla – in Delhi.

MHA said in a statement that the district level committees (DLCs) administered the oath of allegiance to the applicants on successful verification of documents. “After processing as per rules, the DLCs have forwarded the applications to SLEC (state level empowered committee) headed by director (census operation). Processing of application is completely done through the online portal,” MHA said.

The portal was launched by MHA on March 12. MHA officials, who didn’t want to be named, said they didn’t maintain the data of the exact number of applicants, but added that several hundred requests have been received since March 12.

CAA was passed in December 2019, but the underlying rules were not framed. Its passage resulted in protests that petered out only with the Covid-19 pandemic and a clutch of petitions that remain before the Supreme Court.

CAA is in keeping with the BJP’s promise in its 2019 manifesto but was criticised by Opposition parties who linked it to the elections.

A number of opposition leaders, such as CM Banerjee and Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin, have said that they oppose CAA because it curtails constitutional rights.

The CAA rules have a provision that states that refugees from six minority communities from the three countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) applying for the grant of citizenship by registration or naturalisation will have to submit an application, an affidavit verifying the correctness of the statements made in it, a second affidavit from an Indian citizen testifying to their character, and a declaration that they are familiar with one of the languages specified in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.

The rules say that the application will have to be submitted in electronic form to an empowered committee through the district-level committee, which may be notified by the central government, and be supported by documents such as copy of passport issued by Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh governments – birth certificate, an identity document of any other kind, land or tenancy records, or any document that shows that either of the parents or grandparents or great grandparents of the applicant were a citizen of one of the three countries.

The rules state that these documents will be admissible even beyond their validity period.

Applicants also have to provide proof that they entered India before December 31, 2014, which can take the form of either a visa and immigration stamp, registration certificate from the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO), or slip issued by the Census enumerators in India, government-issued licence or certificate or permit in India (including Driving License, Aadhaar number, ration card, or marriage certificate issued in India etc).

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