India will start granting citizenship to refugees under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) after the Covid-19 vaccination process ends, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said today.
Addressing a Bharatiya Janata Party rally in Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas near the border with Bangladesh, Shah accused the opposition parties of misleading Muslims on the CAA and said it would not impact the citizenship status of Indian minorities.
The CAA seeks to give Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists who migrated to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December, 2014 after facing "religious persecution" in those countries.
Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government had in 2018 promised it would bring a new citizenship law.
However, he said, after the country was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, its implementation had to be kept on hold.
"Mamata [Banerjee] didi said we made a false promise. She started opposing the CAA and saying she will never allow it. The BJP always fulfils the promises it makes. We have brought this law and refugees will get citizenship.
"As soon as the Covid vaccination process ends, the process of granting citizenship under CAA will begin," the Home Minister said.
Shah's remarks about the CAA assumed significance as they were made in Thakurnagar, a BJP stronghold with a strong Matua community, whose members are originally from erstwhile East Pakistan and migrated to India during the Partition and after the birth of Bangladesh.
While many of them have been accorded Indian citizenship a sizeable section of the Matuas has not got it, causing disquiet among the community members.
Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress party leaders have for the last two months been taunting the Modi government for "not being sincere" in implementing the CAA whose rules are yet to be framed though the law was passed by parliament in December, 2019
Matuas form a sizable chunk of voters in West Bengal and the BJP, looking to wrest power in the state for the first time, is banking on the Matua community as well as the Koch-Rajbonshi community in Cooch Behar, also bordering Bangladesh, to partially neutralise the possible loss of votes of Muslims who comprise 27 per cent of the electorate.
Shah said Banerjee will not be in a position to oppose the implementation of the CAA as she will cease to be the Chief Minister of West Bengal after the assembly polls likely in April-May this year.