BJP has been laying the base for a new CAB (Citizenship Bill) since 2015

The issue of citizenship has turned into a major political concern with the regime’s efforts to shift the foundational base of citizenship. With a majoritarian regime driven by the RSS-BJP, faith has become the base for those who seek long term visas and finally citizenship of India. In its first term, NDA II failed to get the amendments through, now it is posed to bring them in Parliament, again. Even while the seven north-eastern states protest strongly against this amendment, a 2017 amendment in India’s Passport Rules reveals that the shift has already begun


Almost a week has passed since Amit Shah expressed his government’s clear intentions to the Rajya Sabha, to bring in, in this Winter Session, not just about a proposed, nation-wide NRC but also a newly drafted Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to “protect interests of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains, Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. “

Now, yesterday, November 27, answers to a question put forth by K Somaprasad, of CPI(M), reveals that this government has deported a total of 1,731 persons from India in 2018. In the two years preceding that, between 2016-2018, a total of 6,479 were deported. The government failed to mention which countries these persons had been deported to!

Somaparasad also sought specific details on number of visitors from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the last three years as also number of persons deported in the last 3 years. The question also sought information on criteria for issuing Long Term Visas for foreign citizens and about the government’s intention to provide citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The Home Ministry skipped the bullet on the last question by mentioning sections of the Citizenship Act as it stands today, avoiding any mention of the Citizenship Amendment Bill that is slated to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha in this session.

The ‘Statement regarding Government Legislative and other Business expected to be taken up during the 250th Session of Rajya Sabha’ mentionsThe Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and purpose of the bill is stated as, “To amend the definition of illegal migrant, reduction in the number of years of residency period to obtain Indian Citizenship through naturalization and to empower Central Govt. to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizen of India card in case of any violations.”

Long Term Visas

Sometime around the beginning of 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an amendment to the “Long Term Visas” procedure, which is to be given to ‘Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan nationals coming to India on valid travel documents i.e. valid passport and valid visa and seeking permanent settlement in India with a view to acquire Indian citizenship’.

Under the heading, “Categories of persons eligible for LTV”, it mentions,

Following categories of Pakistan/ Bangladesh/ Afghanistan nationals shall be eligible for grant of LTV:-

(i) Members of minority communities in Pakistan/Bangladesh/Afghanistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.

(ii) Pakistan / Bangladesh women married to Indian nationals and staying in India and Afghanistan nationals married to Indian nationals in India & staying in India.

(iii) Indian origin women holding Pakistan/ Bangladesh/ Afghanistan nationality married to Pakistan/ Bangladesh/ Afghanistan nationals and returning to India due to widowhood/divorce and having no male members to support them in Pakistan/ Bangladesh/ Afghanistan.

(iv) Cases involving extreme compassion.

Under “Procedure for grant of LTV”, the abovementioned foreign nationals who visit on short term visa, if they apply for LTV then if they are eligible as mentioned above, their visa may be granted extension of 6 more months by the FRRO. Interestingly, A fee of Rs. 100 per application is applicable for only Pakistani nationals while Bangladeshi and Afghanistan nationals are not required to pay any application fee. The validity of the LTV may be of 5 years at a time, except for Visa granted on grounds of compassion, who will be granted LTV for one year initially. Each type of LTV can be extended for 2 years at a time.

There are restrictions imposed on re-entry on LTV, which is once a year to go to home countryand once a year to go to a third country, but this third country cannot be Pakistan. Such persons who are granted LTV are permitted to take up self-employment or for doing business, except any business related to contractual business with defence establishment, scientific establishment, sensitive organization, Railways, Ministries or any business related to telecommunication or any business considered sensitive from security point of view.

Exception for Muslim males from Kerala

There is a special provision for Grant of LTV to male Muslim Community members from Kerala, who are also exempted under rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, by notification dated May 15, 2010 by the Central government.

Male Muslim community members being originally Indian citizen who went to Pakistan after partition leaving behind their families in India and returned back to India and settled in the State of Kerala on a valid passport issued by the Government of Pakistan which has either expired or lost and, inter alia, went to Pakistan between August 15, 1947 and December 31, 1965; has not married in Pakistan; not acquired immovable property there and has no intention of going back and has a family in India, may be granted extension on LTV.

Persons without valid documents

The document also makes mention of minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladeshand Pakistan, who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014 either without valid document or with valid documents but the validity of any of such documents has expired can apply for LTV too. In this case, application fee is to be paid by all applicants irrespective of their nationality and will be granted initially for 2 years which can then be renewed on a yearly basis. These persons can take employment in private sector and their children can attend schools/educational institutions.


India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol and there is no national law for refugees. There exists a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for dealing with refugees, which was issued only in 2011. The SOP, inter alia, states that a refugee who claims that he/she faced, in their originating country, a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, sex, nationality, ethnic identity, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and if the claims are found to be valid by the FRRO, they may be granted LTV. The LTV thus granted will be for one year which can be renewed every year for 5 years and for the 6th year, the proposal will be before the MHA. The SOP clearly states that foreigners who have arrived in India in search of economic opportunities, without any fear of persecution are not eligible for LTV.

Groundwork for CAB

Quite clearly the ground work or the foundation for CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) has been already laid down by the government in its provisions for Long Term Visas as mentioned above, which has in turn been issued in accordance with amendments of 2015 and 2016 in the Foreigners Order, 1948 and Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950

The addition to the Foreigners Order, 1948 reads as follows:

“3a. Exemption of certain class of foreigners.- (i) persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before the 31st December, 2014”

The addition to Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950 reads as follows:

“(ha) persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before the 31st December, 2014- (i) without valid documents including passport or other travel documents; or (ii) with valid documents including passport or other travel document and the validity of any of such documents has expired: provided that provision of this clause shall take effect from the date of publication of this notification in the official gazette.”

In 2016, the above rules were amended to even include Afghanistan.

Hence, one can say that these amendments were made since 2015; it happened right under our nose and it is now that we are being confronted with this idea. On one hand the government answers to questions relating to citizenship saying that current citizenship provisions shall apply and on the other hand, it points to the provisions of Long Term Visas and amendments to Foreigners Order and Passport Entry rules, which are already in congruence with the proposed idea of amendments to the Citizenship Act. These provisions are not available to any person from Srilanka, Tamil Hindu or Muslim, nor for either the Ahmadiyas from Pakistan or the Rohingyas from Myanmar. Clearly persecution for this regime is persecution only if it is perpetuated by ‘Muslim countries.’

This government plans to alter the very basis of Indian Citizenship which has been non-sectarian. Somehow this gives an impression that the government has been stealthy in its approach, in laying the groundwork for such a sectarian law that can have adverse repercussions on the socio-cultural fabric of our country which has proudly upheld secularism up until now.

Also Read

Who is an Indian? A complete guide to the NRC in India
Workshop for Activists on Citizenship
‘The clock is ticking’: race to save 2 million from statelessness in Assam
Dissent Note: Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016
An all-India NRC, coupled with CAB aims to threaten, destabilise & stigmatise Indian Muslims: Arundhati Roy
NRC & Citizenship Issue today a rights crisis of epic proportions, Assam: Fact-Finding Report




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