A historical moment for India as the Minister of Home Affairs introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955. This Bill provides Indian citizenship to the illegal immigrants coming from the religions- Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhism, Jain and Parsi from the countries Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who entered India on or before December 31st, 2014.
What is an illegal immigrant according to the Citizenship Amendment Bill?
An illegal immigrant is any foreigner enters India illegally, for example, without valid travel documents like visa/ passport or has entered the country legally but their stay has exceeded the time period mentioned in their respective travel documents. An illegal immigrant can be prosecuted in India, deported or imprisoned.
To be able to determine the citizenship in India, one must meet certain criteria, one example is that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years.
This Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 came into effect on December 12th, 2019 and it works on relaxing the requirement for citizenship of a residence in India by a few methods like- birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalisation (a process where a non-citizen can acquire citizenship), and by incorporation of territory into India.
This bill came into action to provide the Hindu refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh with shelter. The above-mentioned communities are religious minorities in their countries and are persecuted on the grounds of the beliefs of their respective religions. BJP, in the 2019 election campaign, committed itself to bring this bill to act as the National Register of Citizens in Assam was updated in 2019 which left over a million residents without citizenship. Majority of these residents were Hindus.
Due to the Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971, there was a significant increase in the number of illegal immigrants into the bordering states between India and Bangladesh. Therefore, in order to identify the illegal immigrants, the government of India decided that any person who has been able to prove their descent from their ancestors who was a citizen in the NRC of 1951 or has been able to locate their names in the electoral polls, is a citizen of India. If they fail to do either of these, then they will not be considered a citizen of India.
According to the Standard Operating Procedures guided by the Supreme Court of India, Assam was the first-ever state to get a recast of NRC since 1951 and the final NRC was published on August 31st, 2019. These bills exempt a few tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram as included in the Sixth Schedule of the constitution and according to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873.
In addition to this, the citizenship amendment bill also purveys to the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.
According to the citizenship amendment bill 2019, a foreigner is allowed to register as an OCI under the act of 1955 if they are of Indian origin, a descendant of India, or has a spouse who is of the Indian origin.
This Bill entitles the OCI cardholders to advantages such as traveling, work or study in the country.
Why aren’t Muslims a part of the CAB?
This bill excludes the Muslim community for a simple reason, in essence, the other communities are unsafe in the Islamic countries but the Muslim community does not face as much threat and persecution. Illegal immigration needs to be eradicated because it becomes a burden on the resources of India which could cause problem to the actual citizens.
There have been various protests against this bill in Assam along with a curfew in the entire state. There is also an internet shutdown because the curfew was not being followed by the protesters. This bill is being protested because Assamese is an identity which brings together over a hundred tribes and over 50 different language speakers irrespective of their religion. This protest by the residents of Assam is a result of being exposed to the threat of infiltration that will change the entire culture of the state. Besides this, CAB will not count anyone of all the religious minorities coming to India until the year 2014 as an illegal immigrant based on ‘humanitarian grounds’, which defies the Assam Accord, where anyone irrespective of caste or religion were to be considered illegal.
Since almost the entire influx happens through the Assam border and if this number increases, then, the demography of the entire state will completely change and Assamese will turn out to be minorities in their own state.Deducing from this, the CAB 2019 has its own advantages and drawbacks. This may have an effect on our country going forward in the future, but it also gives home to millions who have lost their identity in other countries where the earlier mentioned communities would be in danger and threat.
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