Over 25,000 who entered India in 2015-19 can avail citizenship

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BY RAJNISH SINGH
New Delhi, March 17 (IANS)
Over 25,782 foreigners from minority communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh entered India between 2015 and 2019, and they are authorised to get Indian citizenship as per the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
The CAA facilitates citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
As per the Act, citizenship rights will also be granted to those who have been exempted by the Central Government or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder.
The 25,782 persons from minority communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are among the 26,786 foreigners who were granted Long Term Visas (LTVs) by India from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2019 on valid travel documents, and seeking permanent settlement here to acquire Indian citizenship.
Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai on Tuesday, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, informed that a total of 26,786 LTVs granted to foreigners, including 25,782 from minority communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2019. The minister clarified that the members of minority communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan who were provided LTVs were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.
The grant of LTVs to foreigners seeking Indian citizenship was given on grounds if Bangladesh and Pakistan women were married to Indian nationals and were staying in India or Afghanistan nationals married to Indian nationals in India and were staying in India.
Indian-origin women holding Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan nationality married to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan nationals and returning to India due to widowhood or divorce and having no male members to support them in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan were also given LTVs.
Besides, the LTVs were provided in cases involving extreme compassion.
The Ministry of Home Affairs granted LTVs to these 26,786 foreigners after their arrival in India. Of these, 25,782 persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been granted LTV in the same period after their arrival in India. “There is no specific provision for grant of such LTV to minorities from Sri Lanka,” the minister said.
He also informed the House that the government has extended various facilities to such persons living in India on LTV which includes grant of LTV for a period of five years at a time, allowing children of such LTV holders to take admission in schools, colleges, universities, technical or professional institutions without any specific permission from the state government and Union Territory administration.
These LTV holders have been permitted to engage in employment in the private sector, purchase of dwelling unit and accommodation for carrying out self employment, re-entry (Return Visa) to go to their native country or third country, allowing free movements within the state or Union Territory, reduction of penalty on non-extension of LTV on time. They have been permitted to open bank accounts, issuance of driving licence, PAN card and Aadhaar number.
The CAA which opens door for citizenship to these LTV holders who entered India from January 2015 to December 2019 stoked a controversy soon after it was passed by Parliament in December last year leading to protests across India with many expressing apprehension that the law discriminates against the Muslim community.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)