There will be process to give citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees: FM

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said that there will be process to give citizenship to 95,000 Sri Lankan Tamilian refugees, despite that fact that it has not been part of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019. She said that in the last six years, 2,838 Pakistan nationals, 912 Afghan refugees and 172 Bangladeshi refugees were given Indian citizenship including Muslims and data will prove that the allegations against the CAA are false.

Delivering special address in an event organised by Chennai Citizens’ Forum and New India Forum on CAA, she said that around 461,000 Sri Lankan Tamilians were provided with Indian Citizenship between 1964 and 2008.

Responding to a query on why the CAA, 2019, does not include Sri Lankan Tamilians, she said, “Some times, amendments will be made to provide citizenship for a certain batch of people. When citizenship was provided to Sri Lankan Tamilian refugees, you might have asked why those who migrated from Pakistan were not considered. Not providing the option to Sri Lankan Tamilian refugees does not mean that the citizenship will not be given to them. Amendments are made with certain sections which are there in the Act. 95,000 are still in the camps. There will be process of giving citizenship to them also.”

The government has provided citizenship to refugees from neighbouring countries and it include Muslims, she said. A total of 566 miuslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh were given citizenship since 2014 including Pakistani Singer Adnan Sami, who got citizenship in 2016. During 2016-18, the 391 Afghans and 1595 Pakistanis were given citizenship.

The government has been giving compensation to those who migrated from Pakistan. In 2014, one time financial assistance was given to 36,384 families who were migrated from Pakistan. In 2019, the Cabinet has decided to provide the same to another 5,300 families who first migrated from the region of Chhamb to other parts of the country and later moved to Jammu & Kashmir region and who were earlier missed out from the grant of compensation.

She said that combining the CAA and the proposed Register of Citizens (NRC) is not right, since the details of NRC has not been discussed or finalised. Those who raising allegations and conducting protest are assuming that the NRC process going on in Assam will be implemented in the rest of the country. The NRC process in Assam is held under the supervision of the Supreme Court and is based on the requirements of that region.

According to data from Jammu and Kazhmir government, around 50,000-1,00,000 Kashmir Muslims, 1,50,000-3,00,000 Kashmiri Hindus, were displaced due to militancy. According to an international organisation over 3,00,000 people migrated from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to various States in India.

Referring to the allegations related to her absence in the industry meeting organised under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said that she has been doing her works and taking the message of the government to the public is also her duty. Referring to the criticism that she made announcements every Fridays on economic measures despite the Budget being presented last July, she said that she has made those announcements after hearing each sectors and worked to bring in those decisions to address their issues.

“These things are running under a system. Without knowing that, with half-baked information, the opposition is alleging I was not invited to the meeting. The meeting was organised by NITI Aayog and they invited everybody including me. I have told everybody that I may not be able to take part in the meeting since I had a meeting already fixed with the SC/ST members, some MSME industry members and others. It has been a meeting scheduled one and a half month ago. Should I say that I may not be able to meet them because of this meeting and let them wait for me daring the winter in Delhi? Our party is not like that,” she added.

Commenting on whether it was the right time for CAA considering the economic situation in the country, she said that giving citizenship to those refugees has been pending for long and the idea has been to give it as early as possible. “This has been discussed in the party’s manifesto and even Congress had the same agenda in the manifesto once. While the state assemblies may be able to pass resolution against CAA, it is not constitutional for the states to say that they will not implement CAA,” she said.

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Updated: January 19, 2020 — 12:41 pm

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