Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019: Analysis
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament of India on 11 December 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014. Muslims from those countries were not given such eligibility. The act was the first time religion had been overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the Indian government, had promised in previous election manifestos to offer Indian citizenship to members of persecuted religious minorities who had migrated from neighboring countries. Under the 2019 amendment, migrants who had entered India by 31 December 2014, and had suffered "religious persecution or fear of religious persecution" in their country of origin were made eligible for citizenship. The amendment also relaxed the residence requirement for naturalization of these migrants from twelve years to six. According to Intelligence Bureau records, there will be just over 30,000 immediate beneficiaries of the bill.
The amendment has been widely criticized as discriminating on the basis of religion, particularly for excluding Muslims. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called it "fundamentally discriminatory", adding that while India's "goal of protecting persecuted groups is welcome", this should be accomplished through a non-discriminatory "robust national asylum system". Critics express concerns that the bill would be used, along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), to render many Muslim citizens stateless, as they may be unable to meet stringent birth or identity proof requirements. Commentators also question the exclusion of persecuted religious minorities from other regions such as Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. The Indian government says that Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh have Islam as their state religion and therefore Muslims are "unlikely to face religious persecution" there. However, certain Muslim groups, such as Hazaras, have historically faced persecution in these countries.
The passage of the legislation caused large-scale protests in India Assam and other northeastern states have seen violent demonstrations against the bill over fears that granting Indian citizenship to refugees and immigrants will cause a loss of their "political rights, culture, and land rights" and motivate further migration from Bangladesh. In other parts of India, protesters said the bill discriminated against Muslims and demanded that Indian citizenship be granted to Muslim refugees and immigrants. Major protests against the Act were held at universities in India. Students at Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia alleged brutal suppression by the police. The protests have led to the deaths of several protesters, injuries to protesters and police personnel, damage to public and private property, the detention of hundreds of people, and suspensions of local internet mobile phone connectivity in certain areas. Some states have announced they will not implement the Act. The Union Home Ministry has said that states lack the legal power to stop the implementation of the CAA. The Indian Constitution that was implemented in 1950 guaranteed citizenship to all of the country's residents at the commencement of the constitution, and made no distinction on the basis of religion. The Indian government passed the Citizenship Act in 1955. The Act provided two means for foreigners to acquire Indian citizenship. People from "undivided India"[e] were given a means of registration after seven years of residency in India. Those from other countries were given a means of naturalization after twelve years of residency in India. Political developments in the 1980s, particularly those related to the violent Assam movement against all migrants from Bangladesh, triggered revisions to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The Citizenship Act was first amended in 1985 after the Assam Accord was signed, wherein the Indian government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi agreed to identify foreign citizens, remove them from the electoral rolls, and expel them from the country.
The Citizenship Act was further amended in 1992, 2003, 2005, and 2015. In December 2003, the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 with far-reaching revisions of the Citizenship Act. It added the notion of "illegal immigrants" to the Act, making them ineligible to apply for citizenship (by registration or naturalization), and declaring their children also as illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants were defined as citizens of other countries who entered India without valid travel documents, or who remained in the country beyond the period permitted by their travel documents. They can be deported or jailed.
The 2003 amendment also mandated the Government of India to create and maintain a National Register of Citizens. The bill was supported by the Indian National Congress, as well as the Left parties, such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)). During the parliamentary debate on the amendment, the leader of the opposition, Manmohan Singh, stated that refugees belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and other countries had faced persecution, and requested that the governments approach to granting them citizenship be made more liberal. According to M.K. Venu, the formulation of the 2003 amendment discussed by Advani and Singh was based on the idea that Muslim groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan that had experienced persecution also needed to be treated with compassion.
This Article Does Not Intend To Hurt The Sentiments Of Any Individual Community, Sect, Or Religion Etcetera. This Article Is Based Purely On The Authors Personal Views And Opinions In The Exercise Of The Fundamental Right Guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(A) And Other Related Laws Being Force In India, For The Time Being.
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