Citizenship to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh minorities in Gujarat

Union Home Ministry recently notified an order granting citizenship to religious minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan residing in Anand and Mehsana districts in Gujarat.

What is the recent MHA order on citizenship?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan living in Anand and Mehsana districts in Gujarat.
  • This order empowers district collectors to grant the citizenship to these minorities under Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The recent notification will benefit migrants who entered India via passport or visa and already applied for citizenship under Section 5 (by registration) and Section 6 (naturalization) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • To implement this order, an online application will be made available for the immigrants. The verification will be undertaken by the District Collector and will then be forwarded to the central government agencies.
  • The candidates who applied for Indian citizenship will be investigated by the Intelligence Bureau.

Is this the first time that the citizenship is granted to religious minorities from neighbouring countries?

This is not the first time that the magistrates or collectors were given the power to grant citizenship to religious minorities who legally entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In 2016, 2018 and 2021, the Central Government issued similar orders to district magistrates in several districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab.

In 2016 and 2018, the district collectors of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch were given the power to grant citizenship to minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In August 2022, Gujarat Home Minister distributed Indian citizenship certificates to 40 Pakistani Hindus at the Ahmedabad collectorate. In 2022, 107 Pakistani Hindus were given Indian citizenship by the Ahmedabad district collector.

How is the recent MHA order different from CAA?

The MHA order of October 31, 2022 grants citizenship under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and not under the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA). The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) aims to grant citizenship to six undocumented immigrant minority communities who came to India until December 31, 2014. The CAA seeks to fast-track migrants’ applications by reducing the mandatory requirement of 11 years aggregate stay in India to 5 years under Section 6 of the Act.

How is Indian citizenship granted to migrants from foreign countries?

Citizenship is a central subject. Under the current rules, India grants citizenship to legal migrants who applied under Sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Under section 5 of the Act, citizenship is granted by the Central Government to:

  1. A person of Indian origin who was ordinarily a resident of India for the past 7 years before applying for the citizenship
  2. A person of Indian origin who is ordinarily a resident of any country or place outside undivided India
  3. A person who is married to an Indian citizen
  4. A person of full age and capacity who, or either of his parents, was earlier a citizen of Independent India and has been residing in India for one year before applying for the citizenship

Under section 6, an individual may acquire Indian citizenship by naturalization if he/she ordinarily resided in India for 12 years and fulfilled all qualifications mandated under the third schedule of the Citizenship Act.

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