The Uttar Pradesh government has become the first state in the country to begin the process of implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act and has so far identified 32,000 people in 21 districts who need Indian citizenship, NDTV reported on Monday.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

The Centre notified it in its official gazette last week, making it applicable from January 10. However, the rules for implementing it have not been framed yet.

Uttar Pradesh minister and government spokesperson Shrikant Sharma told NDTV that they are not hurrying through the process. “We have just about started,” he added. “Once the Act has been notified, we need to get moving, right?”

“This is an ongoing process, will keep on updating the figures,” he added. “All district magistrates have been asked to carry out surveys and keep on updating list.”

Sharma said the state government is also in the process of sharing the list of people who need citizenship with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

He told PTI that the refugees identified are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Last week, the government had asked all district magistrates to identify refugees from these countries who had been living in their respective areas and submit a list. The DM’s reports stated that there were around 40,000 non-Muslim illegal immigrants in Uttar Pradesh, mostly in the 19 districts Agra, Rae Bareli, Saharanpur, Gorakhpur, Aligarh, Rampur, Muzaffarnagar, Hapur, Mathura, Kanpur, Pratapgarh, Varanasi, Amethi, Jhansi, Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Lucknow, Meerut and Pilibhit.

Pilibhit district, around 260 km from Lucknow, appeared to have the highest number of refugees. A government official from the district, Vaibhav Shrivastava, on Friday told journalists that 37,000 refugees from Bangladesh, and the former East Pakistan, have been identified as part of an “initial survey”.

“Initial investigations have revealed that these people came to Pilibhit because of persecution in their countries,” Shrivastava added.

A report prepared by the state government contained stories of the refugees, IANS reported.

There have been massive protests against the amended citizenship law and at least 26 people have died in the protests – 19 of them in Uttar Pradesh. The police have also been accused of using excessive force to deal with the demonstrators.