In the face of protests against the Citizenship Bill, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday said that foreigners would not be granted citizenship without the consent of the governments of the states where they are to be settled, The Indian Express reported.
Residents of several Northeastern states have been protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, fearing that the legislation would lead to an influx of new residents that will alter the demographic composition of the states.
“The mistaken perception in the North East about the bill is creating insecurities,” said Home Ministry Spokesperson Ashok Prasad. “The bill doesn’t give automatic citizenship to anybody,” he said, adding that it only eases the conditions for a certain category of people from specific areas to be considered for citizenship. “No one will become a citizen overnight.”
State governments will verify all the claims and the Centre will act on the basis of their recommendations, he added.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years and have faced religious persecution. Those who do not possess the required documents are also eligible for citizenship, according to the bill. The Rajya Sabha is expected to take up the bill in the Budget session of Parliament.
Prasad clarified that not everyone from a persecuted community would be eligible for citizenship. “The inquiry undertaken by the state government will try to establish the person’s claim to the country of origin and the individual claim about religious persecution,” he said. “Once the person applying [for Indian citizenship] clears these two tests, the state government will consider and recommend his or her name for citizenship.”
The home ministry spokesperson also said that the bill’s provisions do not apply to people who have applied under the claims and objections of the National Register of Citizens in Assam. “Their case is entirely different and they cannot avail citizenship,” he said.
Prasad told reporters that the ministry was also considering a proposal to “provide incentives to those people who want to settle anywhere in India, except the North East”, The Indian Express reported.
Protests against the draft law continued on Wednesday in Guwahati, where the All Assam Students’ Union led 30 indigenous groups in the demonstration. Popular Assamese singer Zubeen Garg, who sang the BJP’s 2016 campaign song, performed a song in support of the protest.
This came two days after former Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh urged the chief ministers of all the seven Northeastern states to oppose the bill. Barring the chief ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Assam, the others have opposed the legislation. According to The Assam Tribune, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to chair a meeting with the chief ministers soon.