Citizenship amendment bill, 2019

The citizenship amendment bill 2019 says that if such an illegal migrant has come into India from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan, prior to 31 December 2014 and if such a migrant belongs to Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi or Jain communities they will be entitled to citizenship by naturalisation if they have stayed in India for five years. For the first time, make religion, and that too only certain groups, a ground for granting or rejecting citizenship. This was not done when the Constitution was framed, nor under the Citizenship Act, nor in its earlier amendments, nor even at the time of the Assam Accord.

The criteria for citizenship under CAA are also appears arbitrary: 

  • First, in terms of countries, there is no logic or reason why only illegal migrants from three countries have been selected. The partition cannot be a reason as Afghanistan was not part of undivided India at the time of partition. 
  • Second, it is not clear as to why only persecuted communities from religious groups have been included. Even according to international norms, those requiring refugee status include not just persecuted religious groups, but also those persecuted due to race, nationality, membership of a social group or for their political opinion.
  • Third, there is no justification on why only six religious communities are included. For instance, Ahmadis in Pakistan, Shias in Pakistan, and Hazara Shias in Pakistan and Afghanistan face different degrees of persecution but have not been included under the ambit of CAA. 

However, Govt. claims that

  • Firstly, the CAA will not affect Indian Muslims since it is about giving citizenship and not about taking it away.
  • Second, that no decision has been taken about the NRC.
  • Third, NPR has nothing to do with the NRC.
  • Fourth, even if an NRC is carried out, Indian citizens will not be affected.

Parliament passed the Citizenship Act in 1955, neither the Citizenship Act nor the rules provide the documentation required for proving citizenship by birth. The act also did not provide for a citizenship register or national population study. This Citizenship Act provides for five methods of acquiring citizenship.

  • The primary method is by birth. If you are born in India, you are a citizen of India.
  • Second, is by descent, that is, broadly, for Indians born outside India if the child’s father was a citizen of India and after 10 December 1992 if either of the parents were citizens of India at the time of birth.
  • Third, is by registration. This is for persons of Indian origin, but not having Indian citizenship, and for those non-citizens married to Indian citizens who stay in India for a certain number of years.
  • Fourth, is by naturalisation.
  • The last category is for people who are residing in India at the time of the incorporation of their territory into India.

In the 1980s, concerning citizenship by birth and a sixth way of acquiring citizenship was added. This was against the backdrop of the Assam agitation. Prior to the amendment, it was enough to be born in India after 26 January 1950 to be a citizen. By the amendment of 1987 to the act, it was now provided that for those born in India before 1 July 1987 citizenship would still be by birth.

Due to the agitation, an accord was signed which was given effect to by incorporating on 7 December 1985, Section 6A to the Citizenship Act. Under this, those who entered Assam from Bangladesh before 1 January 1966 and who continue to reside in Assam will be deemed to be Indian citizens. Those who came in between 1 January 1966 and 25 March 1971 will get citizenship after 10 years if that person registers with the authorities, and those who have come from Bangladesh after 25 March 1971 into Assam will not be entitled to citizenship. This did not make any religion-based distinction.

The next major change happened in 2003–04. For those who were born in India after 30 December 2004 citizenship would be granted only if one of the parents was an Indian citizen at the time of the child’s birth.

There was severe criticism against the amendment and a bunch of petitions are pending before supreme court which were not listed so far. However the protest site at shaheen bagh has been in news to displace the protest site as it is infringing the citizens right to free of movement. Further, the govt. claimed that the rules under the bill will be released post covid-19 vaccination process.

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