Uttar Pradesh, the first state to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 , has identified over 32,000 refugees in 21 districts of the state.
The process to identify refugees was initiated soon after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill by both Houses of Parliament to prepare list of people eligible to get Indian citizenship under the new law.
The districts from where the first list has arrived included Sahranpur, Gorakhpur, Aligarh, Rampur, Pratapgarh, Pilibhit, Lucknow, Varnaasi, Bahraich, Lakhimpur, Rampur, Meerut, Agra.
The government has, however, not revealed what procedure was followed for the identification of the refugees eligible of citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act which came into force through a gazette notification on January 10.
The rules for implementation of the Act are yet to be framed.
“We are not hurrying through this. We have just about started the process. Once the Act has been notified, we need to get moving,” said Shrikant Sharma, UP minister and government spokesperson.
“This is an ongoing process, we will keep on updating the figures. All district magistrates have been asked to carry out surveys and keep on updating the list. We are in process of sharing this list with the Union Home Ministry also,” the minister added.
A chunk of those identified so far appear to be from Pilibhit, a district about close to Uttarakhand and India’s border with Nepal.
The district’s government official said that 37,000 refugees who came here from Bangladesh had been identified in the “initial survey” and the names had been sent to the state government.
Initial investigations have revealed that these people came to Pilibhit because of persecution in their countries. No explanation has been provided for the discrepancy in figures quoted by the state government and he district official.
Official sources said the refugees were happy that after decades the government had decided to adopt a favourable approach to their plight. It has generated a lot of hope among the people from Bangladesh.
Most of the refugees had fled Bangladesh in 1960s when it was East Pakistan. They had to shuttle between Maharashtra and West Bengal and were finally rehabilitated in Pilibhit in 1984.
Uttar Pradesh is one of the states that have seen the most violent protests over the new citizenship law. Last month, 21 people died in clashes between the police and protesters, while more than 300 policemen were injured. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has made it clear that the new citizenship law will not be rolled back.
The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, for the first time, introduces religion as a criterion for granting citizenship. Under it, only the persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Pasris and Christians from these countries qualify for Indian citizenship.