CAA, a threat to many Tamil Sri Lankan refugees living in India

Published 30 December 2019  |  
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Under the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), approximately 100,000 Tamil Sri Lankan refugees, an ethnic minority in India, may not be eligible for citizenship, which may force them to leave the country and return to the island nation they escaped during the civil war.

Civil war in Sri Lanka lasted for almost three decades and finally ended in May 2009. Thousands of innocent people were killed during the war and thousands fled to neighbouring states in India. Majority of the refugees settled in Tamil Nadu.

Refugees in Tamil Nadu get free education, rations and healthcare but are not eligible to receive official documents and have limited job allowance.

After the CAA was passed, many refugees may be forced into a place where they have no homes to return to.

According to one of the state government officials, Home Minister Amit Shah had promised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami that he would consider excluding Tamil refugees from the CAA.

S. Velayutham, an advocacy officer at the non-profit Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation in Chennai said that most of these refugees are Christians or Hindus, whose forefathers were born in India.

"Many were sent by the British as indentured labourers on Sri Lankan tea plantations, and hoped for a better life in India when they came here during the war," Velayutham said.

"Some 25,000 children were also born in the camps. They do not know any country but India, but now they may have no choice but to go to Sri Lanka," he added.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, called on the country's government to revoke the CAA. He said that the decision to eliminate some marginalised groups from the CAA is "extremely disturbing."

Thousands of Indians are protesting against the new law that fast track citizenship for persecuted Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains who came to India before December 31, 2014, from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So far, at least 21 people have been killed in clashes with police while challenging the Modi government to revoke the law.

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