NEW DELHI: As a first step to grant Indian nationality to nearly two lakh refugees from neighbouring countries, the NDA government has given citizenship to around 4,300 Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan and Pakistan in one year.
During the entire tenure of UPA-II, the figure stood at 1,023.
The citizenship to these refugees have been given at the initiative of Home Minister Rajnath Singh following BJP’s declared policy that India is a “natural home for persecuted Hindus” who will be welcome to seek refuge.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, during the Lok Sabha election campaign, said that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindu refugees will be treated like any other Indian citizen.
There are around two lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan currently living in India.
Ever since the Modi government assumed charge in May 2014, nearly 19,000 refugees have been given long-term visas in Madhya Pradesh. Around 11,000 long-term visas were given in Rajasthan and 4,000 long-term visas were given in Gujarat, official sources said.
In April, the Home Ministry had rolled out an online system for submission of Long Term Visa application and for its processing by various agencies.
The decision has been taken to address the difficulty being faced by Hindu and Sikh minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who come to India with the intention to settle permanently.
There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and northeastern states.
Sikh refugees mostly live in Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh. (The Economic Times)