The Union home ministry on Friday issued a notification granting powers to authorities in 13 districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to accept, verify and approve citizenship applications from members of minority communities hailing from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
In a gazette notification, the ministry said that “minority community” would include Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians, belonging to the three neighbouring countries, who are residing in the aforementioned states.
Significantly, the notification was issued under existing provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, as rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act have not been framed yet. In December 2020, Home Minister Amit Shah had said the rules could not be framed because of the coronavirus pandemic and the process will be considered once “vaccination starts and corona cycle breaks”.
Disrict collectors at Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara in Gujarat; Durg and Balodabazar in Chhatisgarh; Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi in Rajasthan; Faridabad in Haryana and Jalandhar in Punjab, have been given powers to carry out the process of verification of the applications for citisenship, according to the notification.
Similar powers have been given to the home secretaries of Haryana and Punjab.
The notification has also asked the concerned district collector and home secretary to maintain an online as well as physical register, containing details of the person registered or naturalised as a citizen of India and furnish a copy to the central government within seven days of the process.
In 2018, the Centre had granted similar powers to collectors and home secretaries of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi with regard to certain districts, The Indian Express reported.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, 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. The Act sparked huge protests across the country.
There is apprehension among people that the CAA, followed by the National Register of Citizens, will benefit non-Muslims, while excluded Muslims would have to prove their citizenship. The Centre has, however, repeatedly denied that the CAA and the NRC are linked. About 13 states have opposed the National Population Register process over its links with the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India.