Ashok Gehlot govt drive to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu migrants from Pakistan possessing Long Term Visas

Special camps have been organised in Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jalore and Pali to process applications of such migrants who fulfill the eligibility criteria for seeking Indian citizenship

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (File photo)
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (File photo)

Prakash Bhandari

The Ashok Gehlot government has launched a massive drive in six districts of Rajasthan to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu migrants from Pakistan who are living in the state on Long Term Visas.

Special camps have been organised in Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jalore and Pali to process the applications of such migrants who fulfil the eligibility criteria for seeking Indian citizenship.

In the camps, the state government will accept online applications for the citizenship from the migrants from Pakistan, who want to settle down in the state. Such people are living in the state for over twenty years but were not granted citizenship.

Hindus from Pakistan have been arriving to settle down in India after facing persecution and a very large number of them came on Long Term Visas to India with the intention of settling down in India permanently.

Since the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war over a lakh Hindus, mostly from the backward community, migrated to India after facing harassment and persecution in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

According to the district collector of Barmer Lok Bandhu, the district administration of Barmer and other districts have made elaborate arrangements to help the migrants file their applications and it is expected that about 13,000 such applicants who fulfill the conditions for citizenship would been granted citizenship.

The state government has deputed various departments like the IT and the CID to help the applicants in filling the online applications.

In the past two years, the state government, which is empowered to grant citizenship under the amended Citizenship Act, has granted Indian citizenship to 2383 Pakistani citizens living in various districts of the state.

The Union Home Ministry had in 2019 empowered 13 more district collectors in five states — Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab — to grant citizenship certificates to applicants belonging to six minority communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The latest notification is a reiteration of similar orders issued in 2016 and 2018 and is not related to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that is yet to come into effect.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in 2019 seeks to grant Indian citizenship to six undocumented communities that came to India till December 31, 2014.

The May 28, 2019 notification intends to benefit legal migrants (who entered on passport/visa) from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have already applied for Citizenship under Section 5 (by registration) and Section 6 (naturalisation) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The applicants will have to apply online and a citizenship certificate will be provided after a security check by Central agencies and state police.

Citizenship is a Central subject and the Union Home Ministry periodically delegates powers to states through gazette notification under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Indian citizenship can be acquired on eight grounds – based on registration made by a person of Indian origin, by a person married to an Indian, minor child, whose parents are registered as citizens of India, by a person whose either parent was a citizen of Independent India, overseas citizens of India, by naturalisation and registration of a child at an Indian consulate.

The last notification grants the power to collectors of Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara in Gujarat; Durg and Balodabazar in Chhattisgarh; Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi in Rajasthan; Faridabad in Haryana and Jalandhar in Punjab. These are the areas where the population of such migrants is concentrated.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had in 2011 decided to give LTVs to hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs who came to India claiming religious persecution in Pakistan. Many came on a pilgrim visa and continued to stay in India after the expiry of the papers. According to data, 14,726 LTVs were granted to Pakistani Hindus from 2011-2014.

Though there has been no exact number of such migrants who came to India on LTV or any other type of visa, officials estimate the number to be around two lakh. There are around 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements camps in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur.

In 2015, the ministry amended the citizenship rules and legalised the stay of such foreign migrants belonging to the six communities who entered India on or before December 2014 due to persecution on grounds of religion by exempting them from provisions of the Passport Act and Foreigners Act. It also allowed them to take up employment opportunities in non-government sectors and empowered district magistrates in select states to allow the purchase of property and issue of driving license.

As per Section 2 (b) Citizenship Act, 1955, “illegal migrant” means a foreigner who has entered India “without a valid passport or other travel documents or with a valid passport or travel document but remains therein beyond the permitted period of time.” The definition was inserted in 2004 through an amendment to the Act.

According to an official of the state government’s home department, around 25,000 Pakistani minority migrants are at present residing in various districts of Rajasthan including around 7,500 in Jodhpur. They live in 15 -20 settlements of the three border districts of Rajasthan.

According to the data maintained by the Seemant Lok Sangathan, around 10,000 Pakistani Hindu migrants living in Rajasthan are yet to receive citizenship, whereas around 3,000-4,000 refugees are yet to get registered.

According to the state home department’s records, 13,000 persons living in various districts of Rajasthan have been granted citizenship and they have been provided Aadhaar cards.

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