No record of citizenship applications under CAA rules, Home Ministry says in RTI reply

There is no provision under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and its rules, notified on March 11, to maintain records of citizenship applications filed online under the law, according to an RTI reply by the Union Home Ministry.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 16:04 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 16:04 IST

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Kolkata: There is no provision under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and its rules, notified on March 11, to maintain records of citizenship applications filed online under the law, according to an RTI reply by the Union Home Ministry.

The ministry's response came to RTI applications filed by Bangla Pokkho, an organisation that claims to work for the rights of Bengalis, seeking information on the number of people who applied for citizenship through the website provided by the Home Ministry on March 12 and 13, the two days following the notification of the CAA rules.

The Union Home Ministry in a communication (F No 26027/94/2024-IC-I, dated April 15, 2024) stated, “… that the records are not being maintained as desired by you because the Citizenship Act, 1955 & Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the rules made thereunder does not have the provision to maintain the records of Citizenship application received.”

"Further, as per the RTI Act, 2005, CPIO is not authorised to create information. Hence the information sought may be treated as NIL,” said the communication.

PTI possesses a copy of the communication disbursed by the Foreigners Division (Citizenship Wing) of the Home Ministry.

The RTI applications were filed by Md Sahin of Bangla Pokkho.

“Such a response is ridiculous given that all CAA applications are made online and are centrally digitised,” said Garga Chatterjee, general secretary of Bangla Pokkho.

Chatterjee claimed that the people may be reluctant to apply due to the mandatory requirement to declare under affidavit the applicant’s country of origin and upload it on the website with documentary evidence.

“Since Indian refugees, including Hindu Bengali refugees like the Matuas, are already enjoying citizenship by the virtue of documents like Aadhar, ration and EPIC cards which they already possess, they have no wish to declare themselves as foreigners,” Chatterjee claimed.

He claimed the CAA was “never designed to confer Indian citizenship to Hindu Bengali refugees but to identify Hindu Bengalis having Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins”, and called the whole exercise “a fraud”.

The BJP came out with a sharp response to the allegations, calling it attempts by the opposition to mislead the people.

“Every law, once notified, requires a teething period before it is enforced completely. This is such a period," said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP MP and the spokesperson of the party’s West Bengal unit.

"Since the elections are knocking on the doors, we have, for the time being, only held back the required push that’s needed to be given to people for applying for CAA,” he said.

Citing the “present lack of infrastructure and other factors needed to reach out to the prospective applicants”, Bhattacharya asserted that the BJP would go full throttle for CAA implementation once the elections are over.

“There will be no compromise on CAA. We will implement it. Period. We are talking about it in all our public meetings.

"It's just that we have chosen to stay away from countering the opposition’s efforts to spread confusion over CAA since we are certain they would get no political benefits out of it,” Bhattacharya maintained.

The Trinamool Congress, which has been opposing CAA implementation, said the RTI response was a vindication of its stand on the issue.

“It is unfathomable that the government has no records of how many citizenship applications have been received," said Saket Gokhale, TMC MP in Rajya Sabha.

"If an application is made on a designated website, there is always a record of it. The CAA is nothing but a political tool that has been revived by the BJP just before the elections to fool people,” he said.

The contentious CAA -- which offers citizenship to non-Muslim minority immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution -- is among the major poll issues in parts of West Bengal and in Assam and several other northeastern states.

It is especially being raised in regions where minority groups from neighbouring nations have rallied behind the BJP for the implementation of the CAA which was passed by the Parliament in December 2019.

There were protests against the CAA in several parts of the country. Its rules were notified only last month, paving the way for its implementation.

Published 15 April 2024, 16:04 IST

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