NEW DELHI: As a first step to granting Indian nationality to some 200,000 refugees from neighbouring countries, the BJP-led government has given citizenship to around 4,300 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Afghanistan in one year, according to sources.
During the entire tenure of the previous government, the figure stood at 1,023. The refugees have been given citizenship on the initiative of Home Minister Rajnath Singh following BJP’s declared policy that India is a “natural home for persecuted Hindus” who will be welcome to seek refuge.
During his election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindu refugees would be treated like any other Indian citizen.
There are around 200,000 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan currently living in India.
Since the Modi government assumed charge in May 2014, nearly 19,000 refugees have been given long-term visas in Madhya Pradesh. Around 11,000 long-term visas were given in Rajasthan and another 4,000 in Gujarat, official sources said.
In April, the home ministry had unveiled an online system for submission of applications for long-term visas.
The decision has been taken to address the hardship being faced by the refugees who come to India with the intention to settle permanently.
There are about 400 settlements for refugees from Pakistan in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and northeastern states. Sikh refugees mostly live in Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh.
By arrangement with the Times of India
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2015