Those applying for citizenship under CAA must provide religion proof: Officials
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Those applying for citizenship under CAA must provide religion proof: Officials

The amended citizenship act aims to grant Indian citizenship to minorities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, Christians and Parsis from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have faced or fear religious persecution.

Those applying for Indian nationality under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, will have to prove their religion, officials aware of the matter have said.

The amended citizenship act aims to grant Indian citizenship to minorities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, Christians and Parsis from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have faced or fear religious persecution.

The law, which excludes Muslims, will be applicable to those who entered India before December 2014.

The officials cited above said the government is unlikely to ask for proof of religious persecution from these people in their original country, even as the Union home ministry is in the process of framing rules for the new law.

“The rules are being drafted but to benefit under the CAA one will have to show some proof of their religion. Any government document like school enrolment of children, Aadhaar etc would enough,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

They added that the applicants will also have to furnish documents to prove that they entered India before 2015.

“Requirement of proof of their religious beliefs and their entry date will be included in the rules. This will be useful so that random persons do not apply for Indian citizenship,” one of the officials said.

It was not immediately clear what the nature of the documentation required for applying for citizenship will be.

Earlier, deposing before a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2016, security agencies and government had indicated religious persecution could be verified through security agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing(R&AW) – India’s external intelligence agency.

“The law allows faster citizenship in two cases religious persecution or fear of religious persecution, therefore a check back on whether there was religious persecution isn’t critical,” a second senior home ministry official, who didn’t want to be named, said.

The rules to implement CAA is also likely to have special provisions for Assam—a state that has witnessed continuous peaceful agitation by the civil society and people at large. There is an apprehension that allowing citizenship through CAA would hurt the interest of the indigenous people.

The government is also likely to give a relatively smaller window of three months to those who want to apply for citizenship in Assam under the CAA, a second official said.

The BJP led-Assam government had asked the Centre to limit the time frame for applications for citizenship under the CAA.

“The number of people who are likely to benefit from CAA in the northeast, and especially Assam, is small. Once that becomes clear protests are likely to die out,” a senior Assam government functionary said.

The CAA came into force on January 10 and the Union home ministry is framing the rules that will govern the law.

Civil society bodies, students and several states have opposed the law and protests have continued across the country, including Delhi. A few state assemblies have even passed resolutions opposing the law and urging the Centre to withdraw it.