The Uttar Pradesh government has already started the process of identifying people who need Indian citizenship under the newly formed citizenship law that has triggered unrest across the country. So far, 32,000 people have been identified in 21 districts of the state, the government has said.
But it is not clear what procedure has been followed for this identification. The controversial Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA came into force through a gazette notification three days ago, but rules for implementing it have not yet been framed.
“We are not hurrying through this. We have just about started. Once the act has been notified, we need to get moving, right?” Shrikant Sharma, Uttar Pradesh minister and government spokesperson told NDTV.
“This is an ongoing process, will keep on updating the figures. All District Magistrates have been asked to carry out surveys and keep on updating list. We are in process of sharing this list with the Union home ministry too,” the minister added.
A chunk of those identified so far appear to be from Pilibhit, a district around 260 km from Lucknow, close to Uttarakhand and India’s border with Nepal.
The district ‘s top government official, Vaibhav Shrivastava, told local journalists on Friday afternoon that 37,000 refugees who came here from Bangladesh, and earlier East Pakistan, have been identified as part of an “initial survey” and the names have been sent to the state government.
“Initial investigations have revealed that these people came to Pilibhit because of persecution in their countries,” Mr Shrivastava said.
No explanation has been provided for the discrepancy in figures quoted by the state government.
“I am happy that the government has decided to look at us in a favourable manner. This gives people like me hope,” said Pilibhit resident Kalibad Haldar. His family fled what was East Pakistan in the 1960s, shuttled between Maharashtra and West Bengal, before finally arriving in Pilibhit in 1984, he said.
Uttar Pradesh is one of the states that have seen the most violent protests over the new law. Last month, 21 people have died in clashes between the police and protesters, more than 300 policemen have been injured. But Union minister Amit Shah has made it clear that there will be no rollback of the law.
The contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, for the first time, introduces religion as a test for citizenship. The centre says the law is meant to speed-up the naturalization of six minorities (Muslims not among them) from three Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who sought refuge in India after being persecuted. Critics say the law, when read with the National Register of Citizens, is skewed against Muslims.