The NDA government said on Sunday it had granted citizenship to nearly 4,300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan in its one year of being in power, nearly four times the number granted to such persons in the preceding five years under UPA-II.
According to officials in the government, this rapid increase in granting citizenships is in keeping with the BJP’s stated aim of positioning India as a ‘natural home’ for Hindus fleeing persecution anywhere in the world, a policy similar to Israel’s Law of Return that grants only Jews the right to return and settle there. This policy was outlined in the BJP’s election manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
A safe haven:
|»||Earlier, the Centre had decided to grant citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.|
|»||There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities across Rajasthan.|
|»||Since May 2014, nearly 19,000 refugees in M.P. have got long-term visas. 11,000 such visas were given in Rajasthan and 4,000 in Gujarat.|
The Hindu had, >in an exclusive report on May 10 , said the BJP government would soon submit to the Supreme Court a plan to grant citizenship to thousands of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh who had crossed over into India after 1971. This process would be simultaneous with the BJP’s continued efforts to rid India of ‘infiltrators’, a veiled reference to Muslims who crossed over from Bangladesh.
Officials say there are about two lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan living in India. During the entire tenure of UPA-II, they said the total number of citizenships granted to such persons was only 1,023.
Ever since the Modi government assumed charge in May 2014, nearly 19,000 refugees have been given long-term visas in Madhya Pradesh, around 11,000 in Rajasthan and 4,000 in Gujarat, official sources said.
In April, the Home Ministry had rolled out an online system for Long Term Visa applications and for their processing by various agencies. The decision was taken to address the difficulty being faced by Hindu and Sikh minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had come with the intention of settling permanently in India. There are 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities such as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and the northeastern States.
(With inputs from PTI)