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Citizenship Amendment Bill: Kabul Sikhs trying for citizenship for over two decades

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New Delhi, Jan 9: The contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, was on Tuesday passed by the Lok Sabha even as the Congress and the TMC vehemently opposed it. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks to amend an Act of 1955, was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and will now go to the Rajya Sabha for its approval.

Manohar Singh, an Afghan refugee. Courtesy: ANI news

Amarjeet Kaur, Kabul refugee in India, said, " I have three children. We were in trouble there, we're in trouble here too. People ask us to convert to Islam. It was our father-in-law who earned for family, he also died in bomb blast."

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Manohar Singh, said, "In our own country, we are not counted as Indians. This is our tragedy. We've been trying for citizenship since 20-25 yrs. I request all parties to support in passing the bill."

It has been a long wait of up to 40 years for thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Afghanistan but now they can finally look forward to grant of Indian citizenship. The Bill seeks to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship by six identified minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31, 2014.

The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality. The Bill allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences (eg. parking in a no parking zone).

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Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years. The Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

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