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Dispur seeks to clear CAA cloud

Himanta Biswa Sarma speaks of ‘window period
Women protest with gamosas against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at Sasoni, Dibrugarh, on Saturday.
Women protest with gamosas against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at Sasoni, Dibrugarh, on Saturday.
Picture by UB Photos

A Staff Reporter   |   Guwahati   |   Published 18.01.20, 09:48 PM

The Assam government has suggested that the Centre give a “very short” application window to the beneficiaries of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) so that people can get a clear picture of the number of actual beneficiaries.

Cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday said the suggestion was given keeping in view the statewide protests against the CAA and alleged exaggerated figures given by the anti-CAA organisations about the number of CAA beneficiaries.

“We suggested that the Centre give a very short window period to apply because in Assam so many rumours are going on about the number of beneficiaries. Our firm view is that the number of applicants will be between three lakh and five lakh. We want to end this confusion,” he said.

Some organisations in Assam have been saying that the CAA has opened the door for over one crore Hindus living in Bangladesh to come to India.

Sarma dropped hints about the rules to be framed by the Centre on the CAA. “It will definitely have three components. First you have to prove that you are from that particular religion. Secondly you have to prove that you came here prior to 2015. Thirdly you have to prove that you have come from the designated countries,” he said.

Through CAA, members of non-Muslim communities from three neighbouring countries will get Indian citizenship if they had entered the country before 2015 following religious persecution.

Sarma, however, said an applicant need not prove religious persecution he had faced in the country from where he had fled to India. “You cannot prove the fear of religious persecution or religious persecution. How can you prove that? There is no rule of proving that,” he said.

When reporters reminded him that religious persecution was the basic criteria of CAA, Sarma said: “What do you mean? You want to ask a person to go back to Bangladesh and collect some video or photographic evidence of religious persecution? That the government of India has to assess,” he said.

Sarma said for applicants from Assam, the state government has suggested that the Centre incorporate rules and provisions like requirement of concrete evidence of staying in the state prior to 2014.

He said documents such as bank accounts or electoral rolls before 2014 or NRC application proof can be used to apply for citizenship under the CAA.

“For example, the electoral roll of 2011, a bank account opened in 2012 or matriculation certificate obtained from the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (Seba) in 1975 can be proof. ARN (application receipt number) received while applying for updating names in the NRC can also be proof,” he said.

Sarma said they suggested that the Centre go for physical verification if required to ensure that a person from other religions do not apply as a Hindu and ensure that he came to the country before 2015.

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