The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is pending in Parliament, but the Union Home Ministry has notified amendments to the Citizenship Rules, 2009, to include a separate column in the citizenship form for applicants belonging to six minority communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Under the amendments, a separate entry in the form will ask the applicant: “Do you belong to one of the minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs and Christians?” The Centre has made the changes under Section 18 of the Citizenship Act, 1955. New rules were notified on December 3.
A parliamentary committee has been examining the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, that proposes citizenship to six persecuted minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before 2014. It has run into strong resistance in the BJP-ruled Assam because it will pave the way for giving citizenship mostly to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh in Assam, who came after March 1971, in violation of the 1985 Assam Accord.
Excluded from NRC
Around 40 lakh people in Assam have been excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30. Last month, the Home Ministry re-notified rules empowering 44 Collectors in seven States, except Assam, to accept online applications from those belonging to the six communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
These rules were first notified in 2015.
Rajendra Agarwal, BJP MP and chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, told The Hindu that the Home Ministry had to carry out day-to-day works and the amended rules would benefit those who escaped persecution. “The amended rules are not in violation of the work of the parliamentary committee. It is done to provide relief to the people. The decision to grant them citizenship will be cleared by Parliament,” he said.
Since 2011, nearly 30,000 Pakistanis, mostly Hindus, have been granted long-term visas.