Ahead of the upcoming elections in India’s Gujarat, the country’s home ministry has ordered to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The government issued a notification in this regard on Monday. But this notification is only for Anand and Mehsana districts of Gujarat.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has directed the district magistrates of Mehsana and Anand districts to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis who have arrived in these two districts from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh (up to 31 December 2014). Under the Citizenship Act 1955 District Collectors can grant their citizenship.

The notification said, ‘This citizenship will be granted in accordance with Section 16 of the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Rules of 2009. Under the Citizenship Act, 1955, citizens will receive certificates as per Section 6. Minority non-Muslims of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan of 6 castes such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians living in Anand and Mehsana districts of Gujarat state will be granted collectorate citizenship in those two districts.’

Apart from the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, the move to grant citizenship under the Citizenship Act, 1955 is significant, reports India Today. Even the CAA has approved the granting of Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. But since the rules under this act have not been framed by the government yet, no one has been granted citizenship under it yet.

The notification also mentions some rules. For example, the application has to be done online and the Collector at the district level will verify the application. Online applications will be accessible to Central Govt. District Collectors have the power to verify all aspects necessary to ensure the accuracy of the applicant’s information.

In 2016, 2018 and also in 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs of India empowered District Collectors in several districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to issue citizenship certificates to migrants from six communities entering India on valid documents.

In August this year, Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghvi handed over Indian citizenship certificates to 40 Pakistani Hindus at the Ahmedabad Collectorate, Indian Express reported.

According to the official notification, since 2017, a total of 1032 Pakistanis have been granted Indian citizenship by the District Collector. According to Gazette Notifications 2016 and 2018, the District Collectors of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch have been empowered to grant citizenship to minorities including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians living in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Ahmedabad District Collector has granted citizenship to 107 Pakistani Hindus so far this year.

According to Indian media, the country’s citizenship law has been amended to accommodate oppressed minorities from neighboring Muslim-dominated Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the CAA or the amended Citizenship Act has not come into effect yet. On the request of the Modi government, the deadline for implementation of CAA has been extended by the Rajya Sabha till December 31 and the parliamentary committee of the Lok Sabha till January 9, 2023.

(November 1)