Assam minister and the BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma said those applying for citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) cannot prove if they face religious persecution on Friday. However, he added that the central government will work out a process to verify their claims. “There can be no proof of religious persecution. But they will need proof that they came before 2014. How can there be proof of religious persecution? Will any police station in Bangladesh give them a document that says they faced religious persecution? But the Indian government will have some in-house processes to check whether the place that they are coming from had any incident of atrocities against minorities,” the leader added.
The controversial Citizenship Amendment Law, which came into effect last week, promises citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31, 2014. Critics said that the law, which makes religion a test of Indian citizenship for the first time, goes against the principles of the constitution and can be used to target Muslims who cannot prove their ancestry.
Protests have also protested in north-eastern states, including Assam, against the law as indigenous communities fear the law could legalize lakhs of immigrants who have come in from Bangladesh over the decades, thereby disturbing the natural cultural fabric of the state’s local population. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have maintained that the law is essential to help those who have faced religious persecution in the three countries. Himanta Biswa Sarma said proving religious persecution may prove challenging for the applicants and it was up to the Indian government to verify the claims.