The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)
- It seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities who are facing religious persecution or fear of religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955.
(Remember bill is about those religiously persecuted non muslim immigrants from above said muslim majority countries who have already come to India before a cut off date of 31st Dec 2014. Some romour mongers are involved in false narrative that all future non muslims immigrants will be given citizenship. On the other hand reality is – Applicant should have entered India on or before 31st Dec 2014. According to an estimate crores of such people are already living in India)
- It seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities —Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians —after 6 years of stay in India even if they do not possess any proper document. The current requirement is 12 years of stay ( including 12 months immediately preceding the date of application). However Muslims can still get citizenship by already existing naturalization process which has a requirement of 12 years of stay.
- The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.
** Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former President Dr. Rajendra Prasad and government at that time had promised to give shelter to anyone from the minority community, who had remained in Pakistan, to come and live in India whenever they wanted.
**Even Mahatma Gandhi on 7th July 1947 said that if Hindus and Sikhs living in Pakistan wish to come to India in future, Government of India is bound to provide them employment, citizenship and comfortable life.
**On 18th December 2003, while speaking in Rajya Sabha, Dr. Manmohan Singh has been heard emotionally arguing: “With regard to the treatment of refugees after the partition of our countries, the minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution and it is our moral obligation that if circumstances force these unfortunate people to seek refuge in our country, our approach to grant citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be liberal”.
However, the bill is being criticised for the following reasons:
- The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality. (However right to Equality is not absolute right in India. With Reasonable justification citizenship may be given. It’s a prerogative of any country. For Example US immigration rules are discriminatory, many countries grant citizenship on the basis of investment by the applicants)
- It attempts to naturalise the citizenship of illegal immigrants in the region.
- The Bill allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences.
Need for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016:
- There are lakhs of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who have entered India after facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan without any valid document. Lakhs of such people are already in India awaiting citizenship and living a miserable life in slum areas.
- These refugees have been facing difficulty in getting Long Term Visa (LTV) or Citizenship.
- The existing Citizenship law does not allow anyone granting Indian nationality if he or she can not show proof of documents on country of birth and therefore they have to stay at least 12 years in India.
- Those Hindus who are persecuted due to religion has no other place to go except India.
Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) vs National Register for Citizens (NRC)
CAA is an act passed by the parliament applicable to whole India while NRC is applicable to only Assam. NRC is the National Register of Citizens. The NRC identified illegal immigrants from Assam on the Supreme Court’s order(2013 order). This has been a state-specific exercise to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered. But ever since its implementation, there has been a growing demand for its nationwide implementation. NRC is not based on religion.
On 31st August, the updated National Registry of Citizens was released in Assam after a Supreme Court deadline. Of the 3.3 crore applicants, 3.11 crore figured in the final citizens’ list, while about 19 lakh residents were excluded. This led to protests about an uncertain future of such a large number of people. The government, however, has allayed all such fears, saying no person whose name is not there in the final list will be detained till he / she exhausts all legal remedies. The excluded people have about 120 days to appeal against their exclusion to the foreigner tribunals.
Assam Accord, 1985
During the year 1985, the Assam Accord was signed between the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad and the then Central Government led by Rajiv Gandhi to bring stability in the state. The provisions of the Assam Accord were:
- Any foreigner will be given full citizenship including the right to vote if he/she had come to Assam prior to 01-01-1966.
- The foreigners who had migrated to Assam between 01-01-1966 and 25-03-1971 will be given all the rights of citizenship except the right to vote, which would be denied for a period of ten years and those who entered Assam after the year 25-03-1971 would be deported.
Special concerns of NE indigenous people:
- The Bill has not been sitting well with the Assamese as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985,which clearly states that illegal migrants heading in from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported.
- Mizoram fears Buddhist Chakmas and Hindu Hajongs from Bangladesh may take advantage of the Act.
- Meghalaya and Nagaland are apprehensive of migrants of Bengali stock.
- Groups in Arunachal Pradesh fear the new rules may benefit Chakmas and Tibetans.
- Manipur wants the Inner-line Permit System to stop outsiders from entering the state.
Inner Line Permit
Inner line permit is a document that allow an Indian citizen to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system. It can be issued for travel purposes and issued by state government. ILP is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and now in Manipur(For Dec 2019).
Deepak Dutt Mamgain
Ex Employee Min. of Science & Technology
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