REVIEW OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT (CAA)
In the year 2019, the very contentious Citizenship amendment bill was passed . The Bill granted Indian Citizenship to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated to India after facing persecution on grounds of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It basically intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.
In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods – by birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalisation (extended residence in India), and by incorporation of territory into India.
However, illegal migrants cannot become Indian citizens. Under the Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who:
enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
In 2015 and 2016, the government exempted specified groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and 1920 Acts. They were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who reached India on or before December 31, 2014.
Citizenship on the basis of religion: The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, and for the first time, grant citizenship on the basis of religion to non-Muslim communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
Non - Muslim Communities Included: Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian. This implies that migrants, who identify themselves with any group or community other than those mentioned here, from the above mentioned countries won't be eligible for citizenship.
Exceptions: The provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to two categories - states protected by the ‘Inner Line’, and areas covered under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
CRITICISM AGAINST THE BILL
The fundamental criticism of the Bill was that it specifically targets Muslims. Critics argued that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution (which guarantees the right to equality) and the principle of secularism.
India has several other refugees that include Tamils from Sri Lanka and Hindu Rohingya from Myanmar. They are not covered under the Act.
Despite exemption granted to some regions in the Northeastern states, the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants had triggered deep anxieties in the states.
It will be difficult for the government to differentiate between illegal migrants and those persecuted.
Besides its criticism the government had made it clear that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Islamic republics where Muslims are in majority hence they cannot be treated as persecuted minorities. It also had assured that the government will examine the application from any other community on a case to case basis.This Bill came as a big boon to all those people who have been the victims of Partition and the subsequent conversion of the three countries into theocratic Islamic republics.