The Centre's move to verify and approve citizenship applications from members of minority communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living in five Indian states reveals the government's "fascist character" and is a way to give a "back door entry" to the CAA-2019, the Left parties alleged Saturday. The Centre on Friday issued a gazette notification granting powers under existing rules 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. With the Centre yet to frame rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, which was fiercely protested against by various sections, the order has been issued under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship Rules, 2009.
The Friday notification lists Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians as the communities that will be allowed. The applications will have to be submitted online. "Subterfuge. Rules under CAA 2019 not framed, yet the Central govt issues gazette notification to implement it. Petitions challenging Constitutional validity of CAA continue to remain unheard. Hope SC takes this up promptly & stops back door implementation," CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in a Tweet.
CPI general secretary D Raja alleged the move "completely exposes the fascist character" of the present government. He said there were huge protests against the CAA 2019 before the agitators relented because of the coronavirus pandemic, while some protests earlier were "ruthlessly crushed". "It (the latest citizenship move) shows the insensitivity of a government if it pursues its political agenda at a time when thousands are dying every day due to a pandemic. This exposes the government as insensitive, anti-people and anti-democracy," he said. Dipankar Bhattacharya, CPI-ML general secretary, questioned as to how such an order can be passed when the CAA rules are still not in place.
"In election rallies, BJP leaders were 'distributing' citizenship like they deposited those Rs 15 lakh in every account. Now they are asking for applications from refugees! So if you're an undocumented citizen, you now become a refugee! are the CAA rules in place?" he asked. In December 2019, the Parliament had amended the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddhist communities — but not Muslims — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Under this law, they will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. So far, 12 years of residence has been the standard eligibility requirement for citizenship through naturalisation. The legislation was passed amid strong criticism from the Opposition, which has been calling it discriminatory, and triggered massive nationwide protests.