Bengal govt quickens visa process for non-Muslim Bangla & Pak refugees
Acting upon a Central notification, the West Bengal government has decided to streamline the process for persons from Bangladesh and Pakistan seeking long-term visas (LTVs).
It has set up a tribunal to decide whether these persons, who belong to religious minorities in these countries, are really victims of religious persecution.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, on 1 July, had issued a notification to all state governments except Assam, asking them to form two-member tribunals so that such applications could be scrutinised and LTVs issued fast.
The 1 July circular of the MHA is, in fact, an amendment of its 1964 order, which sought to form tribunals to decide on citizenship issues.
According to official figures, the state government has received around 4,000 applications for LTVs from people hailing from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The NDA's push
On 7 September 2015, the NDA government at the Centre sent a circular to all states, mentioning that persons of religious minorities like Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Christians living in Pakistan or Bangladesh, who have been subjected to religious persecution and torture and have fled to India, can be given LTVs so that they can stay in this country for a considerably long period of time period without hassles.
The BJP's contention has been that Hindus and people of other religious minorities are refugees, and that Muslims coming from these countries were actually 'infiltrators'.
According to informed sources, the LTVs are being gradually converted into citizenship rights for the refugees.
As per the Centre's notification, all applications for granting LTVs have to be settled in 90 days.
The MHA convened a meeting on 11 July to decide on the issue, and senior officials of the home departments of all states had been requested to attend it.
A senior state government official said there had been told to set up the tribunal as soon as possible, so that the applications could be settled fast.
Malay De, the home secretary of West Bengal, admitted that the process for setting up the tribunal has been started and, hopefully, the work would be completed soon.