By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - India has vowed to launch a country-wide exercise to identify foreigners illegally residing in the country, but before that will adopt a law to accord Indian citizenship to all Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist refugees.
The government recently concluded a similar exercise -- known as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) -- in the northeastern state of Assam, where two million people were declared foreigners. Ironically, a substantial number of them are believed to be Hindus.
“I assure all refugees -- Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian -- that the Government of India would not ask any one of them to leave the country,” Home Minister Amit Shah told a seminar in Kolkata, the state capital of West Bengal on Tuesday.
His comments come amid raising protests from different segments of society against the NRC, which aims to target "illegal Bengalis".
“We will first get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed and then we will go for the NRC,” Shah was quoted by the Telegraph India on Wednesday as saying at the event.
While the fear raising about punishing Muslims came from neighboring countries decades ago, Shah in his speech mentioned several religious minority groups except Muslims.
“Don’t believe rumors. Before NRC, we will bring Citizenship Amendment Bill, which will ensure these people get Indian citizenship,” Shah said according to another daily the Indian Express, said while quoting Shah.
The minister vowed to deport each and every foreigner living illegally in the country. The provincial government in West Bengal had resisted central government plans to implement the NRC.
He also reminded people that the government had already moved a bill in Upper House of Parliament back in 2016 to give citizenship to Hindus and Sikhs from neighboring countries. “That version of the bill could never be passed, he said, because opposition MPs disrupted proceedings, “he said.
Referring to events in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, Shah claimed that his government has made it an integral part of India.
"By removing Article 370, we have made Kashmir an integral part of India and it was Modi ji's tribute to Syama Prasad Mookerjee," local broadcaster NDTV quoted Shah as saying during the seminar.
Mookerjee was the founder of Hindu nationalist Jan Sangh which laid basis for BJP as a political party in early 1980. He was arrested in Kashmir in early 1950s when he illegally entered the disputed region. He soon died in a prison.
The Jan Sangh founder was against grating special provisions to Kashmir under Article 370 which was scrapped by India on Aug. 5 this year.
Jammu and Kashmir continues under a near-complete clampdown, since Aug. 5, when the India revoked Article 370 of its constitution, which conferred the region a special status.
India and Pakistan hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.