What Is Citizenship Amendment Bill?

Citizenship Amendment Bill CAB

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill cleared by both houses of Parliament is all set to become a law. Meanwhile, Way2News takes a look at the disputable issues it raises, and whom the Bill benefits.

What Does The Bill Say?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 (CAB) passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday, and Rajya Sabha on Wednesday proposed to accord Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jains, Parsis and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Interestingly, the Bill also relaxes the provisions for “Citizenship by naturalisation”. The proposed law reduces the duration of residency from the existing 11 years to just 5 years for people belonging to the above mentioned 6 religions and 3 countries.

Eligibility For Indian Citizenship

The Bill applies to those who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to oppression based on religion”. The principal objective of the Bill is to protect these people from dealings of illegal migration. The last cut-off date for citizenship was December 31, 2014, which means the person should have entered India on or before the aforementioned date even if they entered the country without valid papers. As per the Citizenship Act of 1955, citizenship is given to those born in India or if they have lived in the country for a minimum of 11 years.

The Union Government’s Pitch

The Union Government says these minority groups have come escaping discrimination in Muslim-majority countries. However, the thesis is not consistent – the CAB does not protect all religious minorities, nor does it apply to all neighbours. The Ahmadiyya Muslim sect and even Shias face discrimination in Pakistan. Rohingya Muslims and Hindus face persecution in Myanmar, and Hindu and Christian Tamils in Sri Lanka. However, the NDA government informed that Muslims can seek refuge in Islamic nations, but has not answered the other questions.

The Exceptions To The Bill

Interestingly, the CAB won’t apply to areas under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution – which cope with autonomous tribal-dominated regions in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Also, the Bill will not apply to states that have the inner-line permit regime — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.

The Difference Between NRC & CAB

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) that we saw in Assam addresses illegal immigrants. A person has to prove that either they or their ancestors were in Assam on or before March 24, 1971. Also, NRC may be extended to the rest of India, is not based on religion, unlike CAB.

Why Such A Hue & Cry?

One of the main opposition against the Bill that it violates 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 based on religion. Also, there has been widespread protests across Northeast states — Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

The Objections

The Bill has triggered massive protests in Northeastern states where many people feel that the permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will break the region’s demography. It will further burden resources and decrease employment opportunities for indigenous people. A large number of people and organisations opposing the Bill also say it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the last date for the extradition of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

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