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Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019(CAA)

  Jun 30, 2020

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019(CAA)

What is Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) about?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) was passed by the Parliament in December 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing relaxations to Indian citizenship law for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities that had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014.Muslims were not given such eligibility. The act was the first time religion had been overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law.

Under the CAA 2019 amendment, migrants who had entered India by 31 December 2014, and had suffered "religious persecution or fear of religious persecution" in their country of origin were made eligible for citizenship. The amendment also relaxed the residence requirement for naturalization of these migrants from eleven years to five. 

What is citizenship by naturalisation?

The original Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation if he has resided in India for at least 12 years before applying for citizenship (throughout 12 months preceding the date of application and 11years earlier to it).  For Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, CAA reduces the residency requirement to five years plus one year. 

Are parts of North east exempt?

The provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.  These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), and Tripura Tribal Areas District. Further, it will not apply to the “Inner Line” areas notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.  In these areas, visits by Indians are regulated through the Inner Line Permit.   Currently, this permit system is applicable to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.  

Who are the beneficiaries?

Immediate beneficiaries of the Bill, according to the Intelligence Bureau of India, will be 31,313 refugees: 25,447 Hindus, 5,807 Sikhs, 55 Christians, 2 Buddhists and 2 Parsis.

Why is it required?

To come to the assistance of the minorities in these three Islamic countries.

What is the criticism?

The amendment has been widely criticised as discriminating on the basis of religion, in particular for excluding Muslims. Critics express concerns that it 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.

How does the government defend the Act?

The government says that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Muslim-majority countries therefore Muslims are "unlikely to face religious persecution" there. However, certain Muslim groups, such as Hazaras (Afghanistan) and Ahmadis(Pakistan), have historically faced persecution in these countries.

The passage of the legislation caused large-scale protests in north east India. Why?

Assam and other northeastern states have seen violent demonstrations against the bill over fears that granting Indian citizenship to refugees and immigrants will cause a loss of their "political rights, culture and land rights" and motivate further migration from Bangladesh.

Can states say they will not implement it?

Some states have announced they will not implement the Act. The Union Home Ministry has said that states lack the legal power to stop the implementation of the CAA under the doctrine of federal supremacy.

Is CAA constitutional?

Supporters say that it is as legislature has the powers to make a policy and counts can not nullify the same provided the classification for differential treatment is reasonable. 

Opponents say it violates Art.14 and 21.

How is CAA linked to National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

When the NRC is compiled for the country, Muslims apprehend that if they cant produce the necessary proofs, they will not be spared as other religious groups will be and thus will be rendered stateless.

What is the connection with the National Population Register (NPR)?

NPR has all people living in the country. It will be used to ask everyone in the register to show that they are citizens upon production of some proofs. Those who can not show any proof, will be outside the NRC and lose their citizenship.