Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Saturday said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is likely to be implemented from January as the Centre is keen to grant citizenship to the large refugee population in West Bengal, PTI reported. Vijayvargiya was speaking in West Bengal’s North 24 Paraganas district, at a campaign programme in the lead up to the state elections, scheduled in April-May next year.

“We are hopeful that the process of granting citizenship to refugees under the Citizenship Amendment Act will begin from January next year,” the BJP leader told reporters. “The Centre has passed the Act with the honest intention of granting citizenship to persecuted refugees coming to our country from neighbouring nations.

In October, BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda had cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the delay in implementation of the law and had said that the same would be done soon.

Meanwhile, responding to Vijayvargiya’s comment, senior leader of the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Firhad Hakim said that the BJP was trying to fool people of the state.

“What does the BJP mean by citizenship?” Hakim asked, according to PTI. “If the Matuas are not citizens, how come they voted in Assembly and Parliamentary polls year after year? The BJP should stop fooling the people of West Bengal.”

The Matua community, originally hailing from East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), started migrating to West Bengal in the 1950s, mostly due to religious persecution.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

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