New Delhi: India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had expressed its apprehensions to a joint parliamentary committee on an earlier version of the Citizenship Amendment Bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha today (December 9).
The controversial bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to refugees from six non-Muslim communities facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It conspicuously leaves out Muslims who may want to seek refuge in India. It is thus being criticised for being discriminatory, and is being seen as a move towards altering India’s secular fabric. Until now, Indian citizenship has not been denied or given to people on the basis of their religion.
Social and political considerations aside, RAW had raised security concerns regarding the implementation of the earlier version of this Bill, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha but had not been cleared by the Rajya Sabha.
According to a report presented by the joint parliamentary committee to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in January this year, a senior bureaucrat of RAW who deposed before the joint parliamentary committee said that they had “great concern” that the CAB could be misused by foreign actors who are “inimical” to Indian interests. In fact, he said, the CAB could become “legal framework” which they could use to infiltrate India.
“Agencies who are inimical to us should not have a legal framework within which they can exploit our situation and infiltrate their own people into our country. That is a matter of great concern for us,” said the RAW bureaucrat, who is understood to be Sujit Chatterjee, joint secretary, RAW.
The dissent of nine MPs, including Bhartruhari Mahtab, Derek O’ Brien, Mohammad Salim, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary and Sushmita Dev is also recorded in this report of the joint parliamentary committee.
Senior officers from India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) had also deposed before this committee.
They said that it is only a “small number” of 31,333 people will benefit from the CAB.
So far, 31,333 persecuted people from other countries, who are of these six religions, have been given the ‘long term visa’ to live in India. The number includes Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis. No Muslims appear to be included in this list. These people currently awaiting Indian citizenship will be the immediate beneficiaries.
“So, from the available data, I think, it will be a small number. I feel that it is from human angle also because they have left their original countries decades back. They are here; they have become citizen-less. They do not get many benefits which are available to the citizens or persons of this country and they cannot go back home. Considering all these facts, the government took a decision and the Bill has been brought (sic),” said the then director of the IB (Rajiv Jain) to the joint parliamentary committee.
The IB was also asked about how often people were getting fraudulent Overseas Citizen of India or Person of Indian Origin cards in India and whether the misuse is really such a serious problem.
“In terms of the numbers, the actual misuse might be actually quite minimal,” said the IB director.
He said that the agency has only found “a few instances of obtaining OCI/PIO cards through fraudulent means.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs too has said that it does not actually have any assessment of how often the OCI card is misused and said it was aware of only a few stray incidents in the absence of specific figures.