The passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Lok Sabha has given hope and a lifeline to persecuted Hindus of Pakistan, who are currently living in the country as refugees.
Following the passing of the bill in the lower house, Pakistani Hindus living in Rajasthan have thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for bringing the historic bill to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities belonging to the three neighbouring countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Currently, there are around 25,000 non-Indian citizens in Rajasthan who migrated from Pakistan after facing severe persecution on the grounds of their religion.
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On Monday, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed with a majority of 311 votes against 80 votes in Lok Sabha. It seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees who came from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
The proposed legislation applies to those who were forced to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion. It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration. The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014, which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.
Reportedly, 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,” he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
“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,” Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangthan, an organisation working for citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Pakistan was quoted in the HT report.
According to the information given by the Rajasthan Home department, nearly 17,652 immigrants from Pakistan are registered at Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) across 18 districts. Out of which 6,127 of them are eligible to become Indian citizens under the existing rules.
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.
There are thousands of Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Christian migrants from Pakistan living as refugees in border states. Under existing laws, the process of being eligible and finally getting Indian citizenship is an exhaustive one, which not only deprives them of education, jobs and government’s welfare schemes but also keeps them from social and financial mobility. If the CAB is passed, it will bring a world of positive changes for these people who had to leave their homes over religious persecution.
On Tuesday, Hindu refugees from Pakistan who are staying in different parts of Delhi also welcomed the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Lok Sabha. Many residents of Majnu Ka Tila in the national capital said that the bill if cleared, will help them get Indian citizenship and end their life in exile.