In a first, the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh has started the process of identifying refugees for the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), even as intense sit-in protests continue across the state.
The districts from where the first list has arrived include Saharanpur, Gorakhpur, Aligarh, Rampur, Pratapgarh, Pilibhit, Lucknow, Varanasi, Bahraich, Lakhimpur, Rampur, Meerut and Agra. There are 75 districts in the state.
UP minister Shrikant Sharma claimed on Monday, January 13 that the process to identify refugees for the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act has been initiated. According to Sharma, over 32,000 refugees have been identified in 21 districts of the state and the exercise is going on in the entire state as per the information he has received from the state Home Department.
"The notification for the CAA (by the Centre) has been issued and all-district magistrates in UP have been asked to collect data," Sharma told PTI.
When questioned about the countries they belong to, Sharma said, "They are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh."
The government has, however, not revealed what procedure was followed for the identification of the refugees eligible for citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act which came into force through a gazette notification on January 10.
Also read: CAA-NRC: Hundreds of Youths Served Notice Despite ‘Non-involvement in Protests’ in UP
PTI stated that the 116-page report, "Uttar Pradesh Mein Aaye Pakistan, Afghanistan Evam Bangladesh ke Sharnarthiyon ki Aapbeeti Kahani — by NGO Nagrik Adhikar Manch details the personal stories of the refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.” The report has been sent to the both state and the Centre.
According to data, over 40,000 non-Muslim illegal immigrants live in UP. Of these, 30,000 to 35,000 are in Pilibhit, a district close to Uttarakhand and India’s border with Nepal. However, the Adityanath government has not confirmed whether it had taken the report into account or not.
Speaking to NewsClick over the recent move by the state government, Keshav Agarwal, a journalist based in Pilibhit, said, "A survey was conducted by the district administration a few days back in Bengali colonies who have migrated from Pakistan in 1968 and which continued till 1971. They are mostly associated with BJP. During the survey, a question was asked about what they think of CAA, to which they said that whatever Modi is doing will be in their favour. Ironically, most of the people have aadhaar card, ration cards and even bank account despite they do not hold Indian citizenship.
When asked about the survey which was conducted by the district administration, Agarwal said, "They narrated their story about how their people were killed during the war, their women were raped and they were forced to leave the country. They are mostly Bengali people and came to India in 1968 and some came after the Indo-Pakistan war. They have border slip-in proof and on that basis, they have managed to open an account in a bank, got aadhaar card and ration card. The survey was not about identifying refugees or giving citizenship to anyone but it was just to know their reactions."
Mohtashim Raza, an activist based in Pilibhit, told NewsClick, "Those people identified as refugees from Pilibhit live in Bengali colonies under Puranpur tehsil. A few days back, a Bareilly-based newspaper Do Took carried a story that Modi government will give citizenship to around 1.15 lakh refugees of Pilibhit which is not true. BJP leader Swami Prasad Maurya even quoted the newspaper which is completely false because no one has any data about how many refugees are living here. A survey was conducted to know the reaction of people who migrated from Pakistan and other countries but local media is spreading rumour that the government is giving them citizenship."
According to Raza, the survey was allegedly conducted only in those areas where mainly Hindus live.
After the passing of CAA, panic has gripped the Muslim community in the state. Long queues of people have been seen in many districts for getting birth certificates.
Last month, the protests against CAA-NRC had turned violent with at least 19 killed in the clashes between police and protesters.
Also read: A Round-up of News Reports From Uttar Pradesh