On December 11, 2019, the Parliament of India reviewed and passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which is also known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Indian Supreme court has since rejected an appeal to hold back the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
CAB was first introduced to the Indian parliament in July 2016. According to BBC News, the parliament’s lower house Lok Sabha is composed primarily of India’s governing party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and had cleared the bill. The Parliament’s upper house Rajya Sabha failed to pass the bill due to ongoing protests in north-eastern India which became violent.
According to The Economic Times (India), the intended purpose of the bill is to protect six minorities from religious persecution and offer them fast-track citizenship. The six minorities include Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists, and Christians who are protected against persecution in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. The bill not only grants citizenship to these minorities with no requirement for valid paperwork, but it also reduces the mandatory stay requirement from the existing 12 years down to seven years.
The Indian Constitution says, “No religious discrimination will be shown by the state against any person on account of his religion or faith.” Yet, opponents of the bill state that the bill blatantly violates constitutional rights by making the means of obtaining citizenship based on religion, excluding Muslims from those protected. This leaves numerous residents in India, like the Rohingya Muslims fleeing from persecution in Myanmar, at a loss. This turmoil continues because India’s Supreme Court refuses to stay the law.
The Indian Government’s logic behind this refusal to keep CAB is based on the fact that due to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan’s specified state religion, the six minorities mentioned previously face dangers of persecution in their daily lives. According to the Economic Times (India), the bill states that these minorities have fled to India to seek asylum and shelter despite having invalid documents. However, this logic is inconsistent due to the CAB not protecting all religious minorities such as Rohingya Muslims, and the Ahmedia sect as well as Shias who face discrimination in Pakistan.
While a prominent factor in the uproar amongst those residing in India is due to the Citizenship Amendment bill which excludes Muslims from the list of asylum seekers, the possibility of nationwide implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) is deeply concerning to many.
The first state to experience NRC was Assam in northeastern India. Residents of Assam were required to provide proof of their own or their ancestors’ residence in Assam on or before March 14, 1971. The aim of NRC is to detect illegal immigrants and deport them. Approximately 1.9 million people have already been affected by NRC and as a result, become stateless. The Washington Post states that many fear that Muslims who are unable to provide proof of their residence due to displacement during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition will risk facing deportation or detention.
As tensions rise among those who reside in India and those whose families are being affected by the CAB, India’s Supreme Court provides Narendra Modi’s government with four weeks to address the concerns of 144 petitions which aim to dispute the validity of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. U.S. News reports that despite the challenges facing opponents of the CAB, All Assam Students Union general Secretary Lorinjyoti Gogoi was confident that “Non-violent and democratic protests will continue alongside the legal battle.” As February nears, Narendra Modi’s government will have to present valid evidence to support the purpose behind the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the possible implementation of a National Register of Citizens in all of India.