Activists Question Govt’s Notification Inviting Non-Muslims to Apply for Citizenship


Home Minister Amit Shah in Assam

It has been issued under Citizenship Act 1955 but not under the controversial CAA whose rules are yet to be framed

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Social activists and political leaders on Saturday raised objections over the notification issued under the Citizenship Act 1955 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) inviting Hindu, Sikh, Christians, Buddhists and Jains from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to apply for the citizenship of India.

It’s notable that the notification has been issued under 1955 law but not the amended law of 2019.

The notification cherry-picks non-Muslim communities from Muslim majority countries on the pattern of controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) whose rules are yet to be framed after the law was passed in December 2019 triggering massive protests across the country.

“In exercise of powers conferred under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955), the central government hereby directs that powers exercisable by it for registration as citizen of India under Section 5, or for grant of certificate of naturalisation under section 6 of the Citizenship Act 1955 in respect of any person belonging to minority community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, residing in the districts mentioned and the states mentioned below….,” the Home Ministry notification said.

The government asked the authorities in 13 districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to accept, verify and approve citizenship applications from 5 non-Muslim communities of three Muslim majority countries.

The districts which have been granted power to approve the citizenship through the notification are: Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara (Gujarat); Durg and Balodabazar (Chhattisgarh); Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi (Rajasthan); Faridabad (Haryana); and, Jalandhar (Punjab).

The notification has drawn a lot of criticism from social activists and political leaders. Prominent human rights activist Ravi Nair called the notification “illegal”. “It’s illegal. If it is challenged in the High Court, it will not hold its validity,” he said talking to Clarion India.

He said the particular districts of the country have been cherry-picked because immigrants are concentrated in these areas. Even cherry-picking of particular districts also does not legally stand. “If the matter goes to fair judges, it will be rejected,” he said.

Nair, who heads an NGO called South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, believes that the government has issued such notification which has no basis in the constitution because it wants to rake up unnecessary issue to divert attention from the real ones like farmer protests and to polarize the society in view of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

The government took these illegal steps because it is habitual of being involved in illegal things. Whether it is not giving GST share to states or jailing anti-CAA activists, these all were illegal. And the government continues to be involved in such illegal things because it’s not facing a real challenge. Outrage is only limited to social media. “There should be civil disobedience against this government. If 2 lakh people cannot go to jail, what can we do,” he said.

RTI activist Saket Gokhale also issued a notice to the government asking it the legal basis on which the notification has been issued.

“The specific provision in the aforementioned gazette notification empowering the relevant authorities for inviting application for citizenship only from minority communities i.e Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians is not only bad in law but is also clear violation of Article 25 of the Constitution of India,” reads the notice issued on Saturday.

In the notice, Gokhale asked how the government “singles out offers to apply for citizenship ONLY to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan”.

Gokhale demanded clarifications and explanations from the government within 7 days. He will move to the court if the government fails to give a satisfactory and timely response.

Apart from activists, political leaders also slammed the government for the notification. CPI(M) chief Sitaram Yechuri criticized the government calling the move “subterfuge” and hoped that the Supreme Court prevented the backdoor implementation of the CAA.

CPI-ML leader Dipankar also questioned the notification asking whether the CAA rules have been issued.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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