Activists of All Assam Students Union (AASU) along with 30 indigenous organizations take out a torch light procession to protest against the Citizenship Amendment bill in Guwahati on January 31, 2019. - The bill will seek to grant citizenship to minorities who fled religious persecution from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to India. (Photo by BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)

The basic objective of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was to facilitate granting Indian citizenship to members of six minority communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan even if they do not have valid documents, the Indian government told Lok Sabha Tuesday.

India’s Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the bill was initially introduced in the country’s Lok Sabha three years ago as Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, and was then referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

The committee submitted its report to Parliament on January 7 this year, he said.

“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was taken into consideration and passed by Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019. It was pending for consideration and passing by the Rajya Sabha. Consequent to the dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha, this Bill has lapsed,” he said in a written reply to a question by Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi.

The minister also said the basic objective of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was to facilitate grant of Indian citizenship to members of six minority communities who has migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or the validity of whose documents had expired.

Rai said the Citizenship Act, 1955, treats such persons as “illegal migrants” and disentitles them from applying for Indian citizenship.

He said the Indian government issued a Gazette Notification on October 24, 2018 under section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, to facilitate expeditious grant of Indian citizenship only to the legal migrants from the six minority communities from the three countries if they fulfill the eligibility criteria.

“This notification does not amend the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 or the rules made thereunder. The notification of October 24, 2018 and the lapsed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 thus deal with different categories of immigrants from the six minority communities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan,” he said.

(PTI)