India plans to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant citizenship to undocumented migrants who fled religious persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh,
The Hindu said on Wednesday. It said the migrants include not just Hindus but also Buddhists,
Christians, Zoroastrians, Sikhs and Jains. There was no mention of Ahmedis in the published list or of Muslim sects facing the wrath of religious bigotry in the concerned countries. The Hindu said top home ministry sources confirmed that a bill is in the works to amend the act and make changes to some provisions. “This is an idea floated right after the Modi government came to power, but it was found that many people who fled into India fearing religious persecution do not have valid documents, or have their visas expired.
Therefore, these people are illegal migrants and ineligible for citizenship,” a top official said. Several high-level meetings were held by the ministry with the law minister, the law secretary and the home secretary to remedy the situation. The cut-off date proposed for victims of religious persecution from Pakistan and Bangladesh who can apply for citizenship is December 31, 2014. Citizenship by registration (a minimum stay of seven years) and naturalisation (a minimum of 12 years) will be the two routes. The external affairs ministry has cautioned the home ministry that the move could hurt India’s relations with its neighbours. Nevertheless, the political call has been taken, The Hindu said.