Citizenship Amendment Act 2019: What it holds for India

According to the Bill, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsi communities who have come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but ...

CAB in Parliament: 10 things we need to know about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill
NEW DELHI: President Ram Nath Kovind last week gave his assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 that has now become an Act. Economic Times takes a look at the contentious issues it raises, and whom the Bill benefits.

1)What the Bill proposes?
According to the Bill, members of the Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Zoroastrian communities who have come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. It also relaxes the provisions for "Citizenship by naturalisation". The law reduces duration of residency from existing 11 years to just five years for people belonging to the same six religions and three countries.


2)Who all does it cover?
The Act covers six communities namely Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. As per the Citizenship Act of 1955, an illegal immigrants cannot get citizenship in India. An illegal migrant is defined as people who either entered the country without proper documents, or stayed on beyond the permitted time. In 2015 the government made changes to the passport and foreigner’s acts to allow non-Muslim refugees from these countries to stay back in India even if they entered the country without valid papers.

3)Who does it leave out?
Leading opposition parties say the law is discriminatory as it singles out Muslims who constitute nearly 15 percent of country's population. The government clarifies that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangaldesh are Islamic republics where Muslims are in majority hence they cannot be treated as persecuted minorities. It also assures that the government will examine the application from any other community on case to case basis.

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4)What is the govt's logic on this?
Citing partition between India and Pakistan on religious lines in 1947, the NDA government has argued that millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths were staying in Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1947. "The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day-to-day life where right to practice, profess and propagate their religion has been obstructed and restricted. Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents," the Bill states.

5)What is the background of the law?
It was one of the poll promises of the NDA government. The Bill in its earlier form was passed in January 2019, ahead of the general elections. It again sought to grant Indian citizenship to the six non-Muslim communities-Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, Jain and Sikh. It reduced the mandatory requirement of 12 years stay in India to seven years to be eligible for citizenship if they do not possess any document. The earlier Bill was referred to Joint parliamentary Committee, however the Bill lapsed as it could not be taken up in Rajya Sabha.

6)Who are the opposers?
Among the main opposition against the Bill is that it is said to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution — the Right to Equality. Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) and a few other political parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill, claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion. There has also been widespread protests across North East in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.
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7)What are the objections that have come up?
The Act has triggered widespread protests in northeastern states where many feel that permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region's demography and further burden resources and decrease employment opportunities for indigenous people. A large section of people and organisations opposing the Act also say it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

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8)Which states will be affected?
The Act would have impacted all 7 North Eastern states. However after several rounds of discussion, the Centre has agreed to provide safeguards for NE States. It says, “Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under the ‘Inner Line Permit’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.” These areas require Indians from other states to get 'Inner Line Permit' to enter or pass through them. Presently, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland fall under the Inner Line Permit. There were concerns that Manipur could end up suffering the most if the CAB is implemented. On Monday, Home Minister Amit Shah announced in the Lok Sabha that Manipur will be brought under ILP.

9)How many will it add to India's population?
There are no official figures other than records furnished by the Intelligence Bureau before the JPC saying there are 31,313 persons belonging to these minority community living in India on Long Term Visa. They had sought refuge here on grounds of religious persecution. Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament said the bill will give a new dawn to lakhs and crores of people. Parties like Shiv Sena have been asking for an exact number. As per the IB records the numbers are - Hindus 25,447, Sikhs 5,807, Christians 55, Buddhists 2 and Parsis 2.
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