UK Indians may not have right to vote

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London, Mar 14 (UNI) Indians living in Britain may have to forego their right to vote as a white paper has stipulated to phasing out the franchise provision for non-citizens.

The right is so far automatic for any Commonwealth citizen who has stayed more than six months in Britain.

The paper-- Citizenship: Our Common Bond-- was submitted by former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith on streamlining eligibility and rights of those acquiring citizenship.

The relevant proposal affecting Commonwealth citizens is that ''only citizens should have the fullest rights to political participation. The right to vote of non-citizens should be phased out while retaining the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and Irish citizens who have Irish citizenship by connection to Northern Ireland.'' Lord Goldsmith was commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to recommend how to streamline citizenship process, and the proposals would be taken up in Parliament this November.

The Commonwealth citizens were accorded full political rights, including the right to stand in British elections, in recognition of the significance the country attaches to the idea of Commonwealth and its imperial links with its members.

It has been a unique arrangement in that even EU nationals, living in Britain, do not have full voting rights. Nor do British nationals in most Commonwealth countries, including India, enjoy reciprocal rights.

However Lord Bhikhu Parekh clarified that all those Indians ''who have permanent residency will continue to have the right to vote and participate in political activities. This right cannot be taken away retrospectively.'' ''Only the newcomers would be affected if the proposals are passed by Parliament. The whole idea is to encourage those who have permanent residency to take British citizenship,'' he added.

Lord Goldsmith said in his white paper, ''My recommendations are intended to promote the meaning and significance of citizenship within modern Britain.'' The proposal comes amid protests over plans to discontinue ''ancestry'' visas for citizens of Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand and South Africa. Politicians in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have attacked the plans calling them ''divisive''.


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