Home / Bangladesh / Mamata promises citizenship rights to Bangladeshis

Mamata promises citizenship rights to Bangladeshis

6West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has vowed to give citizenship rights to Bangladeshis, who have stayed in Bengal for a minimum of five years.

“We will ask the Centre to authorise district magistrates to issue citizenship certificates to those who are living in Bengal for five years or more. The district magistrates (DMs) used to issue citizenship certificates to those who came from Bangladesh before 1971 but that power was withdrawn in 1985,” the chief minister said at a press conference in Kolkata after concluding the cabinet meeting on Wednesday night.

“If the Centre now empowers DMs to issue citizenship rights to the Bangladeshi migrants living here for over five years, then they will be able to participate in mainstream society,” Mamata said.

The only time DMs were given that authority was last year when India and Bangladesh ratified the land boundary agreement under which they exchanged enclaves.

During the Liberation War of 1971, India sheltered hundreds of thousands of refugees from Bangladesh and has never forcibly deported Bangladeshi citizens.

Since 1971, DMs were authorised to issue refugee certificates, cards that helped those crossing over, to apply for rations like food and water, and seek education and health care. But the state DMs could not issue citizenship certificates, as the Indian Home Ministry has sole authority.

According to her, the Centre is now the absolute authority in granting the citizenship card. Whether Banerjee’s sincere plea to the Centre would be heard is a matter of debate and deliberation.