'Dream-come-true' moment for many who got Indian citizenship under CAA

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New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) Bharat Kumar's protracted struggle to call India home after escaping religious persecution in Pakistan ended following an 11-year wait as he become one of the 14 people who were granted Indian nationality under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on Wednesday.

"It is a great feeling to be an Indian. It has given a new life to me," the 24-year-old told PTI minutes after he received the citizenship certificate from Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla at a special function held here.

Kumar said his family came to India to escape religious persecution in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

"When we came here, I was just 13 years old. We had to leave Pakistan as it was difficult to live there under constant fear," he said about the life of his early years.

In Delhi, Kumar's family lived in the Majnu Ka Tila area and engaged in small-time business. He said a total of five people got Indian citizenship in his locality on Wednesday even though over a hundred had applied for it.

"We were told that rest of the applicants will also get the citizenship in due course," he said, adding that getting Indian citizenship is a "dream come true" for him.

He said they were grateful to the government for ending their woes.

Seetal Das, who also lives in Majnu Ka Tila and sells mobile phone covers for a living, said his family of 19 too came from Sindh in Pakistan in 2013 and three of them got citizenship. "I am very happy. The government has fulfilled our desire. Now I can live a dignified life in India." Asked about the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, Kumar said he would miss exercising his franchise this time as time to include his name in the voters list is already over.

"I will definitely vote in next election as an Indian," he told PTI.

Yoshoda, who too came from Sindh in Pakistan and received the Indian citizenship, said she can now live a dignified life as an Indian.

Expressing gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said that with her Indian nationality, the future of her family and children would be secured now. "My long wait for getting Indian citizenship is over now. I am really happy." The first set of citizenship certificates under the CAA was issued Wednesday here to 14 people, nearly two months after rules under the contentious law were notified to grant Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim migrants from three neighbouring countries.

The union home secretary handed over the certificates to the 14 people after their applications were processed online through a designated portal.

The CAA was enacted in December 2019 for granting Indian nationality to persecuted Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.

After the enactment, the CAA got the president's assent but the rules under which the Indian citizenship was granted were issued on March 11 this year after over a delay of four years.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah termed it a "historic day", saying the decades-long wait of those who faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is over. PTI ACB TIR TIR