On December 11th, the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) was passed by Parliament. In the amendment, the concept of “illegal immigrants” referred to in Section 2(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act excludes persons belonging to minority groups of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh who entered India on or before 31st December 2014.
The acquisition period needed to gain Citizenship through Naturalisation has also been shortened from eleven years to five years for these communities. The amendment faces many ramifications across India, with the majority coming from the North-East States. The key objection is that the amendment is religiously incomplete, in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
The amendment has been widely criticized as discriminating on the basis of religion, in particular for excluding Muslims. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called it “fundamentally discriminatory’, adding that while India’s goal of protecting persecuted groups is welcomes’, 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, 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 govt. says that Pakistan, Afganistan and Bangladesh have Islam as their state religion, therefore, Muslims are ‘unlikely to face religious persecution’ there.
The amendment has started a lot of violent protests in Assam as it is in contrast with the Assam Accord of 1985, which calls for the identification and expulsion of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who have come to Assam to protect their culture and tradition. In the Supreme Court, multiple petitions were filed questioning the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
The Citizenship Act, 1955 defines the ways in which Indian citizenship can be obtained. It notes that it is possible to obtain citizenship in India in five ways:
- by birth,
- by descent,
- by registration,
- by naturalization (increased residence), and
- by the absorption of territory into India.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 1955 made it mandatory for a person to remain in India for at least 11 years to automatically obtain citizenship, which was later reduced to 6 years, but this period was reduced to 5 years in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.
This bill is basically opposed because it does not give citizenship to illegal Muslim community migrants from these 3 nations. The fact that it violates the provisions of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution is another reason behind its criticism.
These were some provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which gives illegal migrants from 3 countries Indian citizenship.
Some people claim, however, that this amendment violates Article 14 of the Constitution because it opposes discrimination against someone based solely on caste, faith, gender, place, etc. Hopefully, after listening to all parts of the society, the government would take the right decision.