The Centre on Friday issued a notification inviting non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh residing in 13 districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan to apply for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship Act 1955 and rules framed under the law in 2009.
The issued notification by the Home Ministry read, In exercise of powers conferred under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955), the central government hereby directs that powers exercisable by it for registration as citizen of India under Section 5, or for grant of certificate of naturalisation under section 6 of the Citizenship Act 1955 in respect of any person belonging to minority community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, residing in the districts mentioned and the states mentioned below.
The notification lists Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians as the communities that will be covered, and states that the applications will have to be submitted online. The districts listed are Durg and Balodabazar (Chhattisgarh); Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara (Gujarat); Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi (Rajasthan); Faridabad (Haryana); and, Jalandhar (Punjab).
Earlier, the 16 districts in seven states were given powers to verify and approve citizenship under pre-CAA provision. Now, the total number of districts where this is being implemented is 29 districts in nine states.
The development comes when the rules under contentious Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 are yet to be framed and implemented by the central government. According to the CAA, Indian citizenship will be given to non-Muslim persecuted minorities that include Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had come to India till December 31, 2014.
The Parliament passed this legislation in December 2019, amid strong criticism from the Opposition, which called it discriminatory. There were widespread protests in different parts of the country and even riots took place in Delhi in early 2020 in the wake of these protests.