Owaisi reacts to MHA's latest Gujarat move on CAA: ‘Make law religion neutral’

Published on Nov 02, 2022 09:29 AM IST

The MHA recently issued a notification empowering two more Gujarat district collectors to grant citizenship certificates to six minorities of Afghanistan - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act 1955. It is, however, not linked to CAA, 2019.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. (ANI Photo)
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. (ANI Photo)
By, New Delhi

All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday said the BJP-ruled Centre should make the law of granting citizenship to minorities of Afghanistan “religion neutral”.

His statement comes after a recent notification by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) that empowered two more Gujarat district collectors to grant citizenship certificates to six minority communities of Afghanistan - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act 1955.

The October 31 release is, however, not related to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, rules of which are yet to be framed. The CAA, 2019, offers fast-tracked citizenship to minority communities who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015.

Speaking on the matter, Owaisi said the granting of citizenship is “already happening” in India. “You (government) first give the long-term VISA and then they (minority communities of Afghanistan) get citizenship,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

The AIMIM chief further stated that the CAA has to be linked with the National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“Supreme Court is hearing this, let's see what happens,” Owaisi said.

The apex court has fixed the next date of hearing of multiple pleas regarding the CAA, 2019, to December 6. Owaisi is among several petitioners, who have challenged the validity of the law.

Also Read | CAA may not be within scope of judicial review, govt tells SC

The MHA had earlier too delegated such powers to district collectors of various regions across the country. Similar orders were reportedly passed in 2016, 2018 and 2021 in many districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Chhattisgarh, permitting collectors to issue citizenship certificates to the aforementioned six minorities who entered India with valid identification documents.

However, despite the latest notification not pertaining to the CAA, 2019, a political row erupted in West Bengal on Tuesday when many BJP leaders claimed the Centre has begun the process of enforcing the law.

“Gujarat is the first state. It will be implemented in West Bengal as well. It is an old demand of our Matua community. The Centre earlier said that rules for CAA were being framed,” leader of opposition in Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, said.

He was backed by Union minister of state and All India Matua Mahasangha president Shantanu Thakur.

The Matuas are a part of the large Dalit Namasudra community that crossed over to India from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during partition in 1947 and also 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War to escape religious persecution.

The saffron party leaders' comments were met with criticism from opposition parties, including the ruling TMC in Bengal, Congress, and the Left. They claimed the BJP government at the Centre is trying to influence voters in poll-bound Gujarat.

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