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Options for Goans Registered in Lisbon

With Portuguese Consul General in Goa Rui Carvalho Baceira clarifying that anyone whose name is registered in the Central Registry of Lisbon is a Portuguese under his country’s laws the dreams of thousands of Goans who registered their birth with the Portuguese authorities while retaining Indian citizenship must have been shattered. These Goans were hoping to take advantage of the ambiguity in the Indo-Portuguese Accord of 1975. Now, they have virtually become Portuguese citizens, though they have not got the Portuguese citizenship certificate (Cartão de Cidadão) or passport as yet. It is a practice all over the world that birth registration (either in the country of domicile or embassies or consular offices in foreign countries) is a proof of one’s nationality. The issue of the citizenship of these Goans would now have to be decided in accordance with the Indian constitution which does not allow dual citizenship. The authority proposed to be set up by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) would have its role clearly defined now with there being no ambiguity on the issue of citizenship.
Many of the Goans who registered their births presumably intended to keep their options for Portuguese citizenship at some later date. Now, they would lose their Indian nationality. However, there could be a large number of Goans who registered their births with Portugal’s central registry without knowing the consequence that they could lose their Indian citizenship. The central government should give an opportunity and specific time to the Goans who intend to retain their Indian citizenship by getting their birth registration with the Portuguese government cancelled and showing a proof of the cancellation. The central authority set up by the MHA should be given powers to decide on the applications of those seeking to retain their Indian citizenship. The issue has to be decided in a time- bound manner. Even though Portugal allows its nationals to have dual citizenship it was for Goans to make a choice whether to remain Indian citizens or become Portuguese citizens as Indian laws do not allow dual citizenship.
Now that there is a clear affirmation of no ambiguity by the envoy of Portugal, the state authorities should give up getting confused and confusing the people by saying that the Goans who have registered their birth at the Lisbon Central registry should face no problem. It is not just ordinary Goans who have registered their births with the Portuguese authorities; there are also a couple of legislators as also scores of government officials. The authorities could not subject themselves to selective amnesia; they have a duty to be impartial and transparent and to uphold the Constitution to which they have sworn their allegiance. The authorities should not allow the issue to linger any further and decide it as per the Indian Constitution. They should convince the central authorities that the Goans who have registered their births with Portuguese government should be given adequate time to get their birth registration with Portuguese authorities cancelled. Till that time the Goans who want to continue as Indian citizens should be given chance to exercise their rights as Indians including as voters. Since the cancellation process of birth registration with the Portuguese authorities could take time the Indian authorities could obtain an undertaking or declaration from the Goans wishing to continue as Indian citizens. It remains to be seen how the authorities handle the scene with elections to the state Assembly approaching fast.
The state authorities should conduct a campaign all over the state to create awareness among Goans of the consequences of them registering their births with the Portuguese government. Though the government has been talking of creating awareness to sensitize Goans over the issue nothing has been done on the ground level as yet. Any one registering their birth after a cut-off date set by the state authorities should not be given the right to retract; their cases should be decided as per the constitutional provisions. Besides, while the common Goans may feign ignorance the state authorities should not try to be ignorant of the Indian laws and try to delay decision making on the issue that is contentious and may have political repercussions. Indefinitely delay to derive political benefit could stir up a controversy with implications for social peace and harmony. As the issue has to be decided in any case under the existing laws, it would be better that it was done without delay in a transparent manner so as to ensure that there were no allegations of bias.

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