COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in India cannot be given dual citizenship as demanded by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa, because India does not recognize dual citizenship, Indian officials told Express here on Wednesday.
They were responding to the demand for the grant of dual citizenship made by the TN Chief Minister when she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“India does not recognize dual citizenship. It has a category called the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) which is meant for people of Indian Origin living in various countries as citizens of those countries. But to be an OCI, a person has to show documentary proof of his or her Indian origin. Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are not people of Indian origin,” the official said.
In other words, the TN Chief Minister’s demand can be considered only after India changes its citizenship law to recognize dual citizenship, and that is a far cry.
Asked to comment on the Chief Minister’s demand, S.C.Chandrahasan, head of the Chennai-based Organization for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERR), said that to claim dual nationality, the refugees must first of all have Sri Lankan nationality. But many of them have no documents to prove that they are Lankan nationals, having lost them when they fled the island nation during the 30 year conflict. Therefore the first step should be to give them Lankan citizenship, he said.
There were 24,000 Lankan refugee children born in India, who did not have any documents. Due to the efforts of OfERR, the Tamil Nadu government, and the Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai, mobile registration units toured the refugee camps and got many registered for securing Lankan citizenship papers. 8,000 of the 24,000 kids without papers got registered.
But Tamil extremist groups attacked the mobile registration units at Erode in 2013 and Salem in 2015, and stalled the entire process of registration. The government gave “threat to law and order” as the reason for the stoppage of the process forgetting that it was the refugees’ fundamental right to apply for citizenship of their country, Chandrahasan said.
OfERR is basically opposed to Lankan Tamil refugees continually living in India because they have to return to their homeland to claim their lost rights to lands and livelihood. Along with the Lankan Minster of Resettlement, D.M.Swaminathan, OfERR is arranging for land titles to be given to the returning refugees.
OfERR is propagating the “Mannai Meetpom” movement to regain lands in the Tamil-speaking provinces of North and East Lanka which could eventually go into the hands of non-Tamil outsiders if left unclaimed.
OfERR also feels that seeking Indian citizenship for the refugees or seeking dual citizenship for them is tantamount to hurting their cause and the cause of the Lankan Tamils as a whole.