Forum for refugee status to victims of religious persecution

Guwahati, Sep 16 (IANS) A forum in Assam on Wednesday has suggested that the victims of religious persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan may be given refugee status instead of citizenship.

While saying that the minority communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who had fled the countries due to religious persecution and entered India may be given refugee status, the citizens’ forum – Patriotic People’s Front, Assam (PPFA) said that the central government should not burden Assam alone with all the asylum seekers.

The political parties and civil society organisations in Assam are opposing the central government’s recent move to exempt the minority communities of Bangladesh and Pakistan from the provisions of rules and order under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946,

The central government’s decision has seemingly stirred a hornet’s nest in Assam with several organisations already calling shutdowns and holding demonstrations in the past few days.

The central government issued notification recently saying that it is further considering the issue of regularisation of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India, who escaped from the respective countries due to religious persecution, on humanitarian ground.

“The central government must clarify its stand at the earliest over the issue,” said PPFA secretary Rupam Barua.

“The PPFA also demands a concrete refugee policy with a legal framework to be adopted by New Delhi and urged the people of Assam not to get carried over by the ongoing debate of ‘granting citizenship to these minority communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan’,” he said, adding that granting mere refugee status does not mean granting citizenship to those asylum seekers.

“Even though a refugee in a country is legally allowed to enjoy some basic rights for life, liberty, equality, healthcare, primary education, work, they are not entitled to have the status permanently,” Baruah said.

The PPFA further argued that the process of providing asylum to these minority communities including the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Parsee nationals from Bangladesh and Pakistan should be temporary and that New Delhi must continue to pursue with the authorities in Dhaka and Islamabad diplomatically to help those refugees to return to their respective countries when the situation normalises.

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