Union Home Minister of India Amit Shah on February 11 said the process of granting Indian citizenship to refugees under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will begin once the process of COVID-19 vaccination has ended.
Speaking at a rally in West Bengal, Shah said that implementation of the law had to be kept in abeyance “after the country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020”.
“As soon as the COVID vaccination process ends the process of granting citizenship under CAA will begin. All of you [Matua community] will be respected citizens of this country,” he said, addressing a rally in Thakurnagar, the bastion of the Matua community.
There were country wide protests against the CAA after it was passed by parliament in December 2019. The law provides a fast-track to citizenship for non-Muslim refugees who have faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. However, there are fears that , the CAA could be used to disenfranchise Indian Muslims, using it along with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens.
Shah acknowledged these fears, saying, “As the home minister of this country, I want to assure the minorities of India that none of you will lose citizenship. The CAA is about granting citizenship to refugees, it is not about taking away anyone’s citizenship.”
Reacting to Shah’s assertion about implementing the CAA, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said he should “mind his language” and declared that she will never allow it to be enforced in the state.
“The home minister of the country should be careful about his utterances. We will never allow CAA, NRC or NPR [National Population Register] in Bengal. They can say whatever they want to. They want to destroy Bengal. We will never allow them to do that,” she said.
As of December 2020, the home ministry had said that rules governing the Act are still under preparation, a year after it was passed by parliament and received the President’s assent.
Responding to an RTI query from The Hindu, B.C. Joshi, director (citizenship), Foreigners Division, said “the rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 are under preparation”.