Video

History of CAA

In the previous video of the series ‘Understanding CAA’, we understood what CAA is. If you missed that video, click here. Let us now have a look at the historical background of CAA.
Crux of the Matter

India has been a home to refugees for centuries. When Parsis faced religious persecution during 12th – 16th Century, refugees from the community came and settled in Gujarat. India went through a turbulent refugee crisis during partition. Nearly 10 million people were dislodged and they became refugees migrating through the overflowing borders. The migration was a picture in red and black – massacre and violence.

It seems that people of the Indian subcontinent are still paying for the two-nation theory that created India and Pakistan in 1947. Independent India created a citizenship law to tackle swarms of illegal migrants. The 1955 Citizenship Act laid out the mechanisms for acquiring Indian Citizenship which is governed by Articles 5 to 11 of the Indian Constitution.

In 1971, Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan, was a victim of mass genocide called “Operation Searchlight” carried out by Pakistan in order to wipe out the Bengali Movement in the state. In the 9-month long pogrom, anywhere between 3 lac to 3 million civilians were massacred and more than 10 million refugees rushed to India’s West Bengal, Assam and other nearby states as well as to Myanmar. This triggered the 1971 war between India and Pakistan which led to the bifurcation of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh.

A decade later, the menace of Bangladeshi refugees started creeping up in the states of North East, especially Assam. In 1979 the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) started a movement to save the indigenous culture and drive out refugees, who comprised majorly of Bengalis.
It culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord in 1986 by the then Rajiv Gandhi government. Citizenship Laws became stricter with the 1986 amendment to the Citizenship Act. Individuals born in India could only be considered a citizen if either of their parents was an Indian citizen.

Vigilance on the India – Bangladesh border became stricter. In accordance to the Assam Accord, the amended Citizenship Act aimed at driving out illegal immigrants who had entered India after March 25, 1971.

The term that is creating controversy today “illegal migrants” was added to the Act in the 2003 Amendment by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. Its definition was added to the Act and the following major changes were made:

  • If either of the parents of a child born in India after 2003 were illegal migrants, the child was not to be considered an Indian Citizen.
  • Between 1987-2003, Indian citizenship could be granted to a child whose either parent held Indian Citizenship.
  • Whereas, prior to 1987, anyone born in India was considered Indian Citizen.
  • Illegal immigrants could not apply for Indian Citizenship through Registration.

Dr. Manmohan Singh, then in the Opposition, criticized the Bill and said in 2003 that “”India’s stance towards persecuted minorities be most liberal.” Other amendments in 2005 and 2015 to the Bill were linked to the Overseas Citizenship Clause in the Act.

2003 Amendment also mandated Government to conduct a nation-wide National Register of Citizens and issue a national identity card to each citizen. NRC was not much deliberated after 2003 until 2008’s 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The Congress-led UPA Government decided to go with Aadhaar identification rather than NRC. Along with Census 2010, National Population Register was carried out. However, the UPA government did not take any steps to conduct NRC.

NRC in Assam is an entirely different issue. It has been mandated by the Supreme Court since 1986 to make sure Assam Accord gets honoured.

BJP-led NDA government’s Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, seems like a policy that is on the other side of the spectrum when compared with former NDA government’s 2003 amendments. Attributing circumstantial elements to the different stances, this amendment eases the citizenship requirements for immigrants from certain “religiously persecuted” communities. It will not consider “illegal” immigrants who have entered India before 31st December 2014 and who are from Hindu, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, Christian, Budhha religions as “illegal” and will grant them citizenship. Furthermore, naturalization period for these persecuted minorities has been reduced to 5 years instead of 11. The 11 year naturalisation period is still applicable to every other immigrant.

Looking at the timeline of amendments, it seems that changing circumstances as well as generational demographic shifts have coincided with changes in the citizenship requirements as mandated by the government of India.

Curiopedia

Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971, which the Pakistani state retrospectively justified on the basis of anti-Bihari violence by Bengalis in early March. Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to “Operation Blitz” which had been launched in November 1970. The original plan envisioned taking control of all of East Pakistan’s major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all Bengali opposition, political or military, within one month. Pakistani President Yahya Khan at a conference in February 1971 said “Kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands.” Prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by the Pakistani military leaders. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major Bengali-held town in mid-May. The operation also precipitated the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, in which 300,000-3,000,000 civilians were killed and roughly 10 million refugees fled to India. Bengali intelligentsia, academics and Hindus were targeted for the harshest treatment, with significant indiscriminate killing taking place. These systematic killings enraged the Bengalis, who declared independence from Pakistan, to establish the new nation of Bangladesh. More Info

SC denies Stay Order on CAA

The Supreme court on 9 January dismissed a plea that sought CAA be declared unconstitutional and it said it won’t pass any ex-parte order before hearing the Centre on staying the operation of CAA and NPR

Crux of the Matter
  • A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna has given the government four weeks to file its reply.
  • The apex court has asked all high courts not to pass any order on CAA.
  • The court was hearing more than 140 petitions challenging CAA filed by various entities, including law students, Muslim groups, lawyers, individual politicians and political parties.
  • The court will be separately hearing the cases pertaining to Assam and Tripura challenging the validity of the Act that was notified on 10 January.
  • Senior advocate Kapil Sibal had requested the court to postpone the exercise of NPR for two months which was denied by the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal.
  • Indian Union Muslim League has moved a separate application seeking a direction to the government to clarify whether the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and NPR are linked and whether NRC would be implemented across India.
Curiopedia

Article 131 of the Constitution of India grants original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court on all cases involving the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens. Its original jurisdiction extends to all cases between the Government of India and the States of India or between Government of India and states on one side and one or more states on other side or cases between different states. Original jurisdiction is related to cases which are directly brought to the Supreme Court. Cases which require the interpretation of the constitution or cases relating to the denial of fundamental rights are heard In the supreme court. It is empowered to issue directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari to enforce them. More Info

Video

CAA – What's The Deal?

Crux of the Matter

Citizenship Amendment Act came into effect from 10th January 2020. To say, it has been a hot topic for more than a month, would be an understatement. It has had a polarising effect on politics as well as the citizenry of India.

Citizenship Amendment Act, a part of the ruling party BJP’s electoral manifesto, was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016. With the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha, the bill did not see the light of day. It was re-introduced in the Winter Session of 2019, the year BJP came back to power at the centre with a thumping majority.

Passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Act aims at giving citizenship to certain migrants belonging to persecuted minority communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Citizenship will be granted to migrants belonging to Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, and Christian religions. 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. Refugees from these communities will, in general have their naturalisation period reduced to 5 years instead of the standard 11 years. The 11 year naturalisation period will still be applicable to other migrants.

CAA had also been announced during the Congress regime. It aimed at providing citizenship to religiously persecuted minorities. No religion was specified back then. CAA 2019 has sparked flames because of the apprehension of conducting NRC after CAA. The plan to implement a nationwide NRC has been emphasized multiple times by HM Amit Shah in the recent past.

CAA has been opposed by the states in the North East, specifically regions of Assam and other surrounding states not covered under the Inner Line Permit as they feel a threat to their linguistic, cultural and social identity. Despite ILP, Assam fears the already growing presence of Bangla speaking people, who hold various important positions in the social fabric. It is to be noted, that the amendment is not applicable to tribal areas of the North East and areas falling under ILP.

The primary opposition to CAA in the rest of India is based on the speculative fear that it will be a safety net to ensure the citizenship of non-Muslims, after which NRC will be implemented to discriminate against Indian Muslims. This fear has been stoked by certain parties in the opposition who claim that the government is taking away rights from Muslim citizens in the country. They see CAA as a threat to the fundamentals of the Indian constitution.

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 explicitly explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion.

The government has tried to address these fears by repeatedly stating that CAA is not applicable to Indian citizens. Prime Minister Modi has also come out and said, “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.”

Curiopedia

Citizenship in India – The conferment of a person, as a citizen of India, is governed by Articles 5 to 11 (Part II) of the Constitution of India. The legislation related to this matter is the Citizenship Act 1955, which has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Acts of 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, and 2015. Article 9 of Indian Constitution says that a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country is no longer an Indian citizen. Also, according to The Passports Act, a person has to surrender his/her Indian passport and voter card and other Indian ID cards must not be used after another country’s citizenship is obtained. It is a punishable offence if the person fails to surrender the passport. Indian nationality law largely follows the jus sanguinis (citizenship by right of blood) as opposed to the jus soli (citizenship by right of birth within the territory). The 2019 Citizenship Amendment Bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to make religiously persecuted minorities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014, eligible for Indian citizenship. It also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for these migrants. More Info

Chronicles of CAA, NPR & NRC

Union Cabinet gave a nod to Rs. 3,900 crore budget for National Population Register (NPR) that will enlist all the ‘usual residents‘ of India through an updated questionnaire. The concern is whether this is the first step towards a nation-wide NRC, while the Home Minister Amit Shah has persistently denied any linkages of NPR and NRC.

Crux of the Matter

Origin of NPR
As far as the history of National Population Register (NPR) goes, the UPA government initiated the NPR in 2010 as a vehicle that would connect residents to each household, making the transfer of government benefits to citizens much efficient. The NDA government put NPR behind and brought AADHAAR as a vehicle to meet the same purpose through digitisation.

Revised NPR
NPR is a nation-wide activity to enlist demographic and biometric data of all the Indian residents who have stayed in the country for the last 6 months and who intend to stay in the country for the coming 6 months. NPR drive will take place along with the house-listing phase, the first phase of the Census 2021. The 2010 NPR questionnaire contained 15 questions, whereas the updated one contains 21 questions. Of the added questions, the question seeking ‘Date and Place of Birth of Parents‘ has created a controversy that NPR is the first step towards NRC.

Why NPR?
The ruling party has stated two reasons on why they want the data through NPR:
1. A comprehensive database of citizens is necessary to enhance national security and transfer of government benefits.
2. To club the different identity cards into a single document, most preferably a digital, so as to avoid data mismatch.

Apprehension over NPR
Amidst the chaos and confusion over CAA-NRC implications, the announcement of NPR came soon after PM Modi announced that NRC would not be conducted. Moreover, the stance on how and where the government will use the collected data is ambiguous and that has led to apprehension that NPR is the first step towards the ruling party’s agenda. While the previous government could also have had run a nation-wide NRC, Citizenship Act had not been amended then. As a part of the speculations, the amended clause of the CAA has sparked a debate on whether through the process of NPR and NRC, the CAA filter would result in the exclusion of the Muslim population that cannot produce documents. The government has repeatedly tried to downplay these apprehensions and reassure the masses.

Curiopedia

The National Population Register (NPR) is a list of all the people residing in India and includes both the citizens and non-citizens as well. This definition is based on the statement by the Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju as a response in the Rajya Sabha that was released on 26 November 2014 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. It stated that “the NPR is the first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of every usual residents.” It is prepared as per the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship Rules, 2003. The listing is done at the local, sub-district, district, state and national level. Every “usual resident of India” has to register in the NPR mandatorily. According to the Citizenship Rules, 2003, the centre can issue an order to prepare the NPR and create the NRC based on the data gathered in the NPR. More Info

Home Minister Gives Statement on NRC in Rajya Sabha

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah clarified that government will conduct NRC across India irrespective of any religion. He also said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is different from NRC.

Crux of the Matter
  • People excluded from the NRC in Assam have the right to go to the tribunal.
  • Cost of lawyers to be borne by the state government.
  • West Bengal CM, Mamta Banerjee has strongly opposed to the decision of NRC across India.
  • Amit Shah supported the Citizenship Amendment Bill by highlighting the need of giving citizenship to all illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan belonging to Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Parsi, Jain and Buddhist religions by treating them as victims of religious persecution.
  • He also spoke on restoring normalcy in Kashmir.
Curiopedia

National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register maintained by the Government of India containing names & certain relevant information for identification of Indian citizens. The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated until recently in Assam following Supreme court order. The purpose of NRC update in the state of Assam is to identify illegal migrants residing in that state. Assam has become the first state in India where the updating of the NRC is being taken up to include the names of those persons whose names appeared in the NRC of 1951. More Info