A group of Indian-American organisations in the U.S. has launched a campaign seeking Indian citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh who have been left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
The National Register of Citizens exercise puts the onus to prove citizenship on the citizens. They have to, through documentary evidence, show how they have come to be citizens of India living in Assam.
The group under the banner of organisations like SinghaBahini America, Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) and NavaBanga are seeking support for the Citizenship Bill 2016, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities from India's neighbouring nations who have come to the country for safety.
The members of the group had met Indian leaders during the recently concluded World Hindu Congress in Chicago. "In the light of the well-intended NRC to help identify the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who came as fortune seekers, it has come to light that a large number of Hindu population find themselves left out,” said a media release issued by the group.
The final draft of the NRC in Assam released in the last week of July 2018 included over 28 million individuals, thus confirming their status as citizens of India, while excluding four million residents of the state. This draft is not final and those excluded have been given time to resubmit documentation. But the bill does include the provision that it will consider deporting anyone who has entered the State illegally post-March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion.
This group based on these estimates says around 1.4 million to 2.5 million Hindus find themselves in a position to be stripped of their Indian citizenship, it said. "Forefathers of Hindu brothers and sisters had come to India because of the persecution they faced in Bangladesh, yet they had not given up their faith."
To ensure that the resources of India go to the citizens, NRC in every state is needed, but at the same time it is equally important that India protects poor Hindus from Bangladesh, the statement said.
"The Citizenship Bill, 2016 which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to persecuted minority Hindus, Sikhs and Jains who came from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till 2014 is thus a must to showcase a historic Hindu Unity to send a message to our own people,” the group said.
Thus to counteract the impact of the NRC, the NRI Hindu group is pushing for the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction. However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who are facing persecution in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (With wire inputs)