GUWAHATI, October 27: Criticising the Union home ministry’s notification on allowing some district collectors of seven states to grant citizenship to religious minorities from neighbouring countries, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (ASM) on Saturday said the move was unjustified as a petition on the issue is being heard by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.
Eight prominent citizens of the state under ASM in 2016 had filed a petition challenging Centre’s September 2015 notification that paved the way for an ordinance for amending the Citizenship Act by tabling the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. The Bill seeks citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Bangladesh who were compelled to seek shelter in India because of religious persecution without valid documents.
The September 2015 notification exempted religious minorities from these countries the provision of rules under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946, in respect of their entry and stay in India on humanitarian ground.
Though Assam is not included among the seven states, ASM said that the implication of the notification is going to be felt in the state too.
“Religious minorities from Bangladesh staying in Assam can also apply online for citizenship. This is a way of giving citizenship to non-nationals even as the citizenship amendment bill 2016 is still being reviewed by the joint parliamentary committee,” ASM working president Motiur Rahman said.
ASM, a conglomeration of over 30 indigenous tribal and ethnic organisations in the state, said the latest notification was “unjustified and illegal” as the constitutional bench of the apex court is yet to give its verdict on its petition against citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan,
“The latest notification was issued with an eye on assembly elections in some of the seven states as well as the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. It’s an election gimmick of BJP though, the consequences of the notification are going to have a serious impact on Assam’s interest of safeguarding the rights of indigenous people,” Rahman, one of the veterans of the anti-foreigner Assam movement of the 1980s.
He said that the Centre should not have come out with the latest notification at a time when the five-member constitutional bench was still hearing the petition.
The latest notification issued on October 24, will come into effect from December 22. The notification allowed district collectors of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi to grant citizenship (TNN)