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Featured Image: A screen shot of the statement issued by the Union home ministry. 

By Our Newsmen

Silchar / Kolkata, 08 September: THE NARENDRA government at the Centre has decided to allow “minority” refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan to stay in India even if they lack valid documents.

This will be applicable only to the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and the Buddhists who crossed over to India from Bangladesh and Pakistan on or before 31st December 2014.

The Union ministry of home affairs announced this on Monday and the announcement is backed by two notifications in the Official Gazette issued under the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920 and the Foreigners Act 1946.

The move is politically significant and will immensely benefit thousands of Hindus of Bangladeshi origin living in West Bengal and the northeast states for decades without valid entry or residential papers.

At the same time, it might add to the Hindu-Muslim divide in the country, especially in Bengal and Assam that also have a sizeable Muslim population of Bangladeshi origin.

Maintaining that the decision has been taken “on humanitarian considerations,” the home ministry statement further reads that: “The issue of regularisation of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India has been under consideration of the Central government.”

The development comes amidst widespread resentment among lakhs of Bengalis in Assam over the on-going update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which seeks to identify genuine Indian citizens as those who came to reside in Assam till the midnight of 24 March 1971.

There have been several instances in the past two months when several residents in the Bengali dominated Barak Valley region were put in detention camp by the police after they failed to produce documents in support of their citizenship claim. Barak Valley had witnessed a 24-hour bandh on 10 July against the “arbitrary move.”

In West Bengal too there are thousands of Bangadeshi-origin people, especially those belonging to the Matua community in North 24-Parganas district, who have been living here as refugees and have repeatedly demanded citizenship status.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha campaigns in North 24-Parganas several Central BJP leaders had publicly promised granting citizenship but only to the Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. Although Monday’s move does not ensure citizenship to such people as yet, it surely accords a legal seal on their stay in India.

The full transcript of the union home ministry statement is reproduced below:

“The Central Government has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities who have entered into India on or before 31st December, 2014 from the relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946, in respect of their entry and stay in India without such documents or after the expiry of those documents, as the case may be.

The Central Government has accordingly issued two notifications in the Official Gazette today under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946.

There are reports that a number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities in those countries, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists, were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.

They have entered into India either without any valid document including passport/ other travel document or with valid documents but the validity of such document has expired.

The issue of regularization of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India has been under consideration of the Central Government.”

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