For over 17,000 immigrants from Pakistan living in Rajasthan, the Citizen Amendment Bill , 2019, is a reason to celebrate.
The bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution in those countries. It proposes to make people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi faiths who entered India till December 31, 2014, eligible for citizenship.
“We thank the government for incorporating our demand...This allows third generation minority immigrants from Pakistan to acquire citizenship under Section 6 (naturalization) after five years of stay in India instead of 11 years,” said Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangthan, an organisation working for citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Pakistan.
An immigrant can currently apply for citizenship after staying in India for 11 years. Since the cut-off date for CAB is December 31, 2014, religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh immigrating to India that year will have to wait for five years for citizenship.
Cheidam Sharma, the chief coordinator of an organisation facilitating the stay of Hindu immigrants in Jaipur, said under the current law, children of immigrants cannot get Indian citizenship unless their parents have got it.
“For example, I came to India from Karachi with my wife and two children in 2013. I will become eligible for citizenship in June 2020. My wife and children can apply for it only after I have become an Indian citizen. The new legislation does away with this. All of us can apply at the same time if the new law comes into effect.”
According to information given by the Rajasthan home department in reply to an assembly question in the last session , 17,652 immigrants from Pakistan are registered at Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) across 18 districts; 6,127 of them are eligible to become Indian citizens under the existing
In Punjab’s Amritsar, around 20 families of the Sikh and Hindu faiths that have been migrated from Pakistan hailed the introduction of CAB in Parliament.
“I have heard that the citizenship amendment bill is being passed. If we will get citizenship, it will like a new birth for us,” said Saran Singh, 52. His family has five members, including his wife, two sons and a daughter. They are yet to get Indian citizenship.
“We applied for the citizenship around 10 times, but nothing happened. Now we are exhausted and don’t even want to apply once again. Whatever we have been earning is being spent on extending our visas. Even, our sons and daughters are not getting married due to a Pakistani tag,” he said.