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article imageIndia passes overseas citizen bill 100 years after Gandhi return

By Sravanth Verma     Mar 3, 2015 in Politics
The Indian parliament passed a bill to grant overseas citizenship to individuals of Indian origin residing abroad, a hundred years after Mahatma Gandhi, a key spearhead in India's freedom struggle against the British, returned to India.
Indian parliament's lower house, the Lok Sabha, ratified the bill which amends the Citizenship Act, and adds two categories of Indian-origin people residing overseas. Formerly, people of Indian origin could apply for a "Person of Indian origin" card, or an "Overseas Citizen of India" card. Overseas citizens had to go through stricter checks and meet more rigorous norms regarding Indian origin. During the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US in September 2014, he had promised the country's large Indian diaspora of easing visa restrictions and combining these two categories.
The government had bypassed the legislature and issued an ordinance to this effect in January, to coincide with the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's return to India from South Africa. The ordinance was ratified as a law on Monday, March 2. “A bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the previous session but it couldn’t be passed,” said Rajnath Singh, the Union Home Minister, said defending the ordinance.
Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju clarified that this bill does not apply to refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh. This issue was being looked into by a taskforce set up in September 2014, he clarified. “People who apply for Indian citizenship will now be allowed a 30-day break if they have to leave India for some time and their absence from the country will not affect their application for citizenship,” he added.
Coinciding with the bill, academicians in Johannesburg, South Africa also celebrated the centenary with a two-day international conference calling for the revival of Gandhian principles to promote interreligious dialogue. The conference organised by the Centre for Indian Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the Indian missions in Pretoria and Johannesburg focus on Gandhi's legacy and his attitude to racial discrimination.
Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam illustrated these principles with a famous Mahatma Gandhi quote: "All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others." He added that it was appropriate that the conference was being held at Johannesburg, where Gandhi matured his "Satyagraha" or non-violent resistance for freedom. “This historic event forms part of the year-long activities planned to mark the anniversary,” Ghanashyam said.
After 21 years in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India on January 9, 1915, after being urged to do so by doctors in London where he was treated for a severe bout of pleurisy or lung inflammation. Doctors had advised that he return to India and avoid the English winter.
More about Mahatma gandhi, Citizenship, indian parliament
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