The NDA government may have allowed Hindus and other religious minorities from Bangladesh to stay in India, but its plan to grant them Indian citizenship has hit a hurdle.
Various agencies, the State governments, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central government have failed to reach a consensus on the number of people who could be granted citizenship.
Assembly elections are due in Assam and West Bengal in the next couple of months and the government had hoped to complete the process before that. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and the north-eastern States.
“We have still not been able to reach a conclusion on how many people from Bangladesh would be granted Indian citizenship,” said a senior government official involved in the process.
“Different agencies have come up with different numbers and there is no way to ascertain whether an applicant is genuine or not.”
The official said the citizenship plan would be on hold till a consensus was reached. Intelligence agencies had also opposed the scheme as it could potentially be misused by some, said another government official.
In September 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a notification allowing persecuted minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan to stay in India even after the expiry of their visas.
“The Central government has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to the minority communities who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, in respect of their entry and stay in India without proper documents or after the expiry of the relevant documents,” said the statement. The decision was taken under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and the Foreigners Act, 1946, as first reported by The Hindu.
Since the NDA came to power in May 2014, several steps have been taken to welcome religious minorities — Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians — from Bangladesh and Pakistan into India.