Figures for long-term visas to minorities don’t add up

Only 230 Hindus from Pakistan and four Sikhs from Afghanistan had been given long-term visas (LTVs) till September 2018, the Union Home Ministry has said in response to a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by The Hindu . However, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha on August 8 last year that 9,152 such visas were granted from 2016 to 2018 and 13,262 Pakistani nationals had applied for them during the period. After hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs came to India alleging persecution in Pakistan, the then UPA government decided to give them long-term visas. Most of them had come on pilgrim visa, which expired. According to a Home Ministry official, the LTVs granted to Pakistani Hindus from 2011 to 2014 stood at 14,726. In response to an RTI query on the “number of long-term visas given to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh from January 1, 1990 to September 6, 2018”, the Home Ministry said, “As per the available information no. of certificates issued to Pakistani Hindus are 230, and Afghanistani Sikhs are 4. No other information is available to the undersigned CPIO (Central Public Information Officer).” The Home Ministry did not furnish any reply on the number of Bangladeshi Hindus who have availed the facility. Submissions by the Ministry before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill say that till now, 31,313 persons belonging to the minority communities (25,447 Hindus, 5,807 Sikhs, 55 Christians and two Buddhists and Parsis each) have been given the LTVs, a precursor to Indian citizenship, on the basis of their claim of religious persecution. These persons will be the immediate beneficiaries of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, that proposes to grant citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31, 2014. The Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, is pending in the Rajya Sabha.

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