CITIZENSHIP BILL

Reading time : 10 minutes

Citizenship bill provides indian nationality to six communities of six religions . These religions are Sikhs , hindus , Christians , parsis , jains and Buddhists who are fleeing persecution from Pakistan , Afghanistan and Bangladesh on or before December 31 , 2014 . The bill amends the citizenship act of 1955 to make illegal migrants in the select categories eligible for citizenship{1}. The legislation seeks to make it easier for non-muslim refugees and illegal immigrants from the three Islamic majority nations , to gain indian citizenship. The citizenship amendment bill was introduced by BJP in 2016 to change the citizenship status of illegal migrants in india[2] . Muslim migrants are not eligible for this citizenship. Rajya sabha chairman and vice president had given six hours to the MP’s to discuss in detail about the citizenship bill and after discussion was over the voting took place . Many political parties supported citizenship bill along with bharatiya janta party (bjp) . Parties who supported this bill were JD(u) , SAD , AIADMK ,BJD , TDP YSR-CONGRESS . Shiv sena did not participated in this voting . 311 people had voted and this bill was passed by the lok sabha . The citizenship bill cleared parliament’s lower house i.e., lok sabha where the bharati janta party (bjp) has a large majority , but it did not pass in the upper house i.e., rajya sabha , after the brutal anti-migrant protests in north-eastern india.  

-Amit shah on citizenship bill.

 Amit shah says that ,this bill basically protects the persecuted minorities of these countires because all these faiths mentioned in the bill these are basically the faiths that are attacked a lot ,  and are discriminated against in these three countries – Afghanistan , Pakistan and Bangladesh .therefore we are providing them an escape route through this bill.  We are inviting them to india and providing them security and a better future. Home minister amit shah also said that the citizenship bill does not take away the citizenship of any muslim who are residind in india and it only seeks to give the same citizenship to persecuted minorities of three Islamic countries . He also added that this citizenship bill will not snatch the citizenship of indian muslims .

Why people are criticising the citizenship bill ?

They say that there are many more persecuted minorities in these three countries which need help , which are facing discrimination and which are not mentioned in this bill for example, ahmedis and shias in Pakistan , Afghanistan and Bangladesh . they say that this bill is selectively protecting some minorities and communities and it is ignoring some .

In such a scenario, those people who are sikh, hindu,jain and Buddhist are safe even when they do not have proper documents. But in this whole process, poor muslims who don’t have proper documents are at risk because then they won’t be considered citizens of India. According to Article 14 of Indian Constitution, the state shall not deny to any individual equality before the law and equal protection of laws. But CAA is clearly violative of Art. 14 because it is giving privilege to certain community on the basis of religion. Indian Constitution provides equal treatment to all the individuals despite their caste, religion, race but CAA is not providing equal protection to all. This law is flawed on many grounds and the argument that state can make law  when there is reasonable classification is also not serving it’s purpose because this classification is not reasonable. Favoring certain community over others is not justified and providing protection to certain individuals at the cost of others is not constitutional {2].

Threat to national security according to critics –

This bill is a huge threat to our national security . Our intelligence agency , RAW had expressed the same concerns , since illegal immigration would become easier due to this bill . Anyone could just request for citizenship by producing an affidavit , declaring he is a hindu , sikh , parsi , jain , Buddhist or christian and he would be granted citizenship very easily. What this would do is enable infiltrators and terrorists to get inside the country very easily and this could pose a huge threat to the country . This bill is also against the founding principles of our country .

Why muslims are opposing the citizenship bill ?

Muslims are the most law-abiding citizens of India. The spirit of Indian Constitution is brotherhood, equality and justice; but the linking of religion to citizenship in CAA breaches that spirit. The community considers it a direct assault on the constitutional set-up of the country, which may have far-reaching repercussions. Right now, the Act is leading to religious discrimination against the five lakh Muslims who were left out in NRC in Assam. Since everyone needs to get registered under NRC, the onus of proving that they are not foreigners will fall on all individuals. This entire exercise could lead to a huge humanitarian crisis [3].

What opposition has to say about this bill?

The opposition says that this is a sought of legislation which going to be at odds with the constitution , it is not going to be something which will agree or abide by the basic tenets of our constitution . The constitution does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith and this bill chooses to do exactly that because it talks about six communities who are not indian nationals but want to escape persecution from the these three Islamic countries . In these six categories there is no mention of muslims , also it very specifically talks about these six religions . The opposition says that the constitution does not give the luxury to the government to differentiate on the basis of religion .

Why north-east protested against citizenship bill?

The north-east violence exploded as soon as the citizenship bill was passed in both houses of the parliament .  The new law sanctions indian citizenship for unreported non-muslim migrants from three Islamic countries which are Bangladesh , Afghanistan and Pakistan . Many people and oppositions called this amendment ‘the attack on secularism’ but issues and problems were different in north-east . People of north-east fear losing their native identity to a possible arriving of refugees from these three countries. Many people , civil society groups , students unions of different universities and opposition parties affirmed that citizenship bill would threaten the interests of indigenous tribal people and dilute their culture and political sway . People who were protesting in assam and other north eastern states do want indian citizenship to be granted to any immigrant be it of any country . People of assam and north-eastern states fear that giving citizenship to refugees or immigrants will result in a loss of their culture , political rights and land too.  People of assam and other north-eastern states are also concerned about the assam accord which was a antecedent agreement reached with the central government on migrants and refugees . After the citizenship amendment bill was passed , the protests in assam and the north-eastern states region turned violent .  People of north-eastern states also fear that the citizenship bill law will make them minority in their own homelands . According to people of north-eastern states  , the government of india with their ill intention wants to exterminate their histories , cultures , languages , and their identities , Therefore , a millons of people of assam and other north-eastern states took to the streets against the citizenship bill. According to north-eastern people if government of india grants citizenship to foreign immigrants , their land , cultural and political rights will be wiped but also this law motivates more foreign migration that could destroy their heritage and everything else. This citizenship bill has divided india into protests and exultation. While hindu , sikh , Christian , parsis , jain and Buddhists communities across india are celebrating the indian government’s move , a majority of people in assam and other north eastern states remains on edge . Guwahati was the focal point of anti-CAB protests .

Why people are in the favour of citizenship bill?

Rebroadcasting partition between india and Pakistan on the basis of religion in 1947 , the government of india and people who are supporting this bill argues that millions of citizens of undivided india belonging to different faiths were staying in Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1947. But the constitutions of Afghanistan , Pakistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion . As a outcome  many persons belonging to sikh , hindu , jain , Buddhist , parsi and Christian communities have faced oppression on grounds of religion in those countries . Some people of these communities have fears about such oppression in their day-to-day life where right to practice their religion , profess and progate their religion has been hindered and restricted . Many citizens of these countries have fled to india to seek shelter and they continued to live in india even if their documents expired ( which includes travel document ). So the GOI and people who supporting this bill says that this bill will provide illegal migrants a status of legal migrants by doing their proper documentation on records . This will also be in favour of proper resource management according to GOI. People who are in favour and government of india claims that  this provision applies only to foreigners and it will not affect any of the rights of any indian citizen .

 Youth protest on citizenship bill-

Youth and thousands of students were protesting because they felt that the citizenship bill is very discriminatory and they feel that this bill is the part of hindu-nationalist agenda to thrust aside india’s muslim minority . Prime minister narendra modi assured youths that this bill will not take anybodys citizenship and he said that thousands of students and youths are being misguided. Central Government and state government did things like large scale arrests of political and student wing leaders and stopped the internet services to calm down the protest and rallies which were going on . In this protest , youths from all over india joined the protest in solidarity with JMI , AMU , MANUU and many other universities . Even the student from private universities joined this protest in solidarity with the minority dominated universities .Youth who were protesting says that due to this citizenship bill the government of india pushed our country into an enigmatic depth of hate and exterminated the future of india’s youth . The protestors from JMI  stride to parliament house to express and protest the citizenship bill . On the way to parliament there was a clash between delhi police and protestors from JMI . Many students were slacken  after the clash happened between protestors and the cops during the citizenship bill protest . According to the prostestors they were striding peacefully and the delhi police stopped them from going to parliament . Also the protestors says that cops lathicharged them and asking them to go back . Protestors claimed that the cops pelted stones on them and in response to which the protestors also picked up the stones . However the delhi police denies all these allegations of protestors and said that they had placed barricades which the protestors broke and then cops claimed that first protestors threw stones on them .

Government’s stand on the citizenship bill –

The government has shed light on that Pakistan , Bangladesh and Afghanistan are Islamic republics where muslims are in majority and hence the muslims cannot be treated as persecuted minorities .

*According to the indian government  , the citizenship bill aims at granting rather snatching away someone’s citizenship.

* It has assured that the indian government will scrutinize the application from any other community on a case to case basis .

~ This citizenship bill will come as a big boon to all those people who have been the victims of partitions (1947) .

~ Present indian government cited that the partition of india on religious basis and ensuing failure of the Nehru-liaqat pact of 1950 in protecting the rights and nobility  of the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh as the reasons for bringing this citizenship bill.

~ Many people questioned that why government of india did not included minorities from sri lanka , Myanmar , etc., the government of india elucidated that the process of awarding citizenship to refugees has been undertaken by the different governments in the past on case to case basis and from time to time.

~The indian government has also assured the people of assam and other north-eastern states that their linguistic , cultural , political and social identity would be preserved .

Conclusion –

The major issue with this bill is that it only provides citizenship to non-muslim immigrants who have resided for five years from three islamic countries which are pakistan , afghanistan and bangladesh . Presently , the petition challenging the citizenship bill has been pending in the supreme court which will decide its constitutional validity . The citizenship bill is a altruistic step to grant citizenship to those people who suffered for the last 70 years . This citizenship bill also emends the failure of the Nehru – liaqat pact of 1950 . However , it can be also said that the citizenship bill fails the test of constitutionality because of the debarring of some religions from some countries .Indian Government should give more attention to the founding principles of equality and secularism of inidian constitution while ratifying the law. This citizenship bill was passed by the parliament for the protection of the religious minorities who suffered sadistic condition in their own nation specifically Pakistan , Bangladesh and Afghanistan . Many people and human right activists  have concerns that the citizenship bill serves as a protective measure for non muslims in case of exclusion from a nationwide national register of citizens – which means that a proposed list of all indian citizens . With the citizenship bill in place , muslims would primarily bear the brutal consequences of exclusion from the NRC which may include deportation or detention . Bharatiya janta party’s (bjp) people came in support for the citizenship bill and advocated that it is also the means of protecting hindus who are excluded from the NRC in assam . Many secular people , left wing and activists views this bill as a growing prominence of the bjp’s hindutva ideology . This citizenship bill further seeks to protect the constitutional assurance given to the indigenous populations of north eastern states . Indian government assures that citizenship bill doesn’t discriminate against indian muslims . It’s only motive is to protect those minorities who are persecuted in their home countries owing to their religious alliance . Government of India says  that leaving out muslims is not discriminatory since muslims are not a minority in the Islamic nations of Bangladesh , Pakistan and Afghanistan . The parliament has all the powers to make laws for our country when it comes to citizenship , but the opposition , other political parties and many people contended this act by the Indian government and They say that this act violates some of the underlying features of the constitution like secularism and equality.  This citizenship bill have reached the doors of Supreme Court and if Supreme Court says that  this citizenship bill violated the underlying features of our constitution then it will be struck down and if they says that it is not violating our basic features then this citizenship bill will carry on .

 But one most important thing is, an equilibrium has to be attained by New Delhi as this involves neighbouring countries too. Any exaggerated attempt to host the migrants should not be at the cost of goodwill earned over the years. India being a land of myriad customs and traditions, the birthplace of religions and the acceptor of faiths and protectors of persecuted in the past should always uphold the principles of Secularism going forward. (4) 

The utmost issue with the citizenship bill is that it provides citizenship only to the people who are non-muslim immigrants who have lived in india for five years from these three countries which arw Afghanistan , Pakistan and Bangladesh . if this bill amends , still any foreigner can apply for citizenship but only after abiding all the laws and rules . They  have to reside in india for 11 years then they will be registered .

Author: RUCHIRA GARG, BHARATIYA VIDYAPEETH , NEW LAW COLLEGE , PUNE MAHARASHTRA

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s