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Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019: What Is It And Why Is It Seen As A Problem

Protests have broken out across India, a few of them violent, against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.

The Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation.

They will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years.

So far 12 years of residence has been the standard eligibility requirement for naturalisation.

At the first hearing on petitions challenging the CAA, the Supreme Court declined to stay the contentious law but asked the Centre to file its reply against the petitions that say it violates the Constitution.

The petitioners say the Bill discriminates against Muslims and violates the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution. Here’s a primer.

Who makes the cut?

The legislation applies to those who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”.

It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration.

The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014 which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.

Indian citizenship, under present law, is given either to those born in India or if they have resided in the country for a minimum of 11 years.

The Bill also proposes to incorporate a sub-section (d) to Section 7, providing for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.

What is Centre’s logic behind the bill?

Centre says these minority groups have come escaping persecution in Muslim-majority nations.

However, the logic is not consistent – the bill does not protect all religious minorities, nor does it apply to all neighbours.

The Ahmedia Muslim sect and even Shias face discrimination in Pakistan.

Rohingya Muslims and Hindus face persecution in neighbouring Burma, and Hindu and Christian Tamils in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

The government responds that Muslims can seek refuge in Islamic nations, but has not answered the other questions.

Some say it is like Partition, is that true?

Amit Shah says that the Bill would not have been necessary if the Congress did not agree to Partition on the basis of religion.

However, India was not created on the basis of religion, Pakistan was.

Only the Muslim League and the Hindu Right advocated the two nation theory of Hindu and Muslim nations, which led to Partition.

All the founders of India were committed to a secular state, where all citizens irrespective of religion enjoyed full membership.

Either way, this logic for the CAB also collapses because Afghanistan was not part of pre-Partition India.


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