The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for Islam as their state religion. Lots of people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Earlier, migrants from the 3 nations who entered into India without valid travel documents were regarded as illegal migrants and were ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
As per the 2019 amendment, now these migrants will not be treated as illegal migrants. Those who have entered India before 31 Dec 2014 will be given Indian citizenship. Other refugees from these communities will have their naturalisation period reduced to 5 years instead of the standard 11 years.
Illegal migrants from these countries who are Muslims, other minorities who do not belong to any of the above groups or Atheists will not be eligible for direct citizenship or exemption in the naturalisation process. They can still follow the normal naturalisation process of 11 years.
Fears of the North East
The North-Eastern regions feel a threat to their linguistic, cultural and social identity. The government assured them of no threat to their identity by not applying the Amendment Act the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the areas covered under ‘The Inner Line’ in which now Manipur has also been included. Amit Shah speaking in the Lok Sabha reassured that no provision of Article 371 would be violated by this Bill.
Fierce Opposition and the Govt’s Rebuttal
The opposition argues that the amendment violates the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion. Article 14 permits laws to differentiate between groups of people only if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill does not explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion.
The primary opposition to the CAA is that it is seen as a safety net that will ensure the citizenship of all Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsi. After the citizenship to all the non-Muslim communities is secured through the CAA; the NRC will be implemented which will discriminate towards Indian Muslims. The opposition claims that the government is taking away rights from Muslim citizens in the country and creating indifference which is a threat to the fundamentals of the Indian constitution.
Home Minister Amit Shah fiercely responded to the claim by saying, “The Bill has no provision to snatch citizenship from anyone but to grant citizenship only to the refugees. There is no need for Indian Muslims to live in fear.”
The protesters also fear that the cut-off date of December 31 2014, will become irrelevant which will lead to another provisional cut-off date and more migrants coming in.
Arguing on giving citizenship to Muslims, government has repeatedly clarified anyone who has entered India after 1st January 2015 and seeking citizenship will have to go through the normal process wherein there is no special status to any community.
Fear of CAA and NRC Combination, Govt Tries to Pacify Fears
Muslims fear discrimination in the nationwide process of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). Though NRC has no direct correlation to the CAA and its process is not revealed yet but still, the opposition claims that the combination of CAA and NRC goes against the Muslim community.
NRC has only been primarily implemented in Assam on directions of the Supreme court under the Assam accord.
Opposition demands that migrants from other countries also should be taken in consideration but the ministry reveals that the reason to be selective only for these 3 countries is primarily due to religious persecution the population of minorities has reduced considerably over the years and secondly due to failure of the Nehru-Liaqat pact of 1950.
The Home ministry revealed that there have been decisions taken earlier to grant citizenship to migrants from other countries and of different faiths. Amit Shah reiterated that the CAA would not have been required if the partition of India was not done on religious lines.
The government says that it has no political agenda and it is simply aimed to end the sufferings of the persecuted refugees. Apart from CAA, the NRC is aimed to ensure that no illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay in the country.
In the wake of violent protests across the country a lot of misinformation is being spread about the CAA and the NRC; for which the government has stepped in to provide authentic facts to bring in the much-needed clarity.