The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday i.e. 11 December 2019 passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill or CAB. It was previously passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday i.e. 2 December 2019. The bill was signed by the President of India on Thursday i.e. 12 December 2019, thus making it Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA.
According to the act, the members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till 31 December 2014 citing persecution shall not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian Citizenship. The six communities identified in the Act will be given Indian Citizenship after 5 years. Earlier the duration was 11 years. The Act also gives immunity to illegal immigrants if they are facing legal cases. However, the act will not be applicable to the Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the schedule six of the Constitution. The Act will also not apply on areas covered under Inner Line Permit or ILP as notified under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
A large section of the population in the states of Assam and Tripura are opposing the act saying that the act nullifies the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985. They also fear that if citizenship is granted to illegal Bengali speakers (both Hindu and Muslim), it will undermine their culture and language. It is pertinent to mention here that the Assam Accord fixed March 24, 1971 as the cutoff date for deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion. The Assam Accord was signed by the Government of India, Government of Assam, All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Assam Gana Sangram Parishad in 1985 after years of protests in Assam. The present protests in Assam are only against CAA and not against National Register of Citizens or NRC.
Slowly the protests spread to other parts of the country. However, the tipping point came with police assault on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi and subsequently on Aligarh Muslim University at Aligarh. The reports point out the brutality of police on the defenseless students of both the Universities. There are claims and counter claims from the students and the police. Both the educational institutions have been closed till January 5, 2020. Uddhav Thackeray has on record compared the police attack on Jamia Millia Islamia to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. A fact finding team by human rights activist, Harsh Mander, described the attack on the students of Aligarh Muslim University as more brutal than even Jamia. There has been a long list of colleges and universities where protests by students have been registered against police assault on Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. Some of the prominent Universities that have joined the protest against CAA are Madras University, Punjab University, Pondicherry University, Nadwatul Ulama, Punjabi University, Osmania University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Jadavpur University, Indian Institute of Technology (Madras), Mumbai University, Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai), Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore), Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), Aliya University etc.
NRC was first done in Assam as per the Assam Accord. The whole process was monitored by the Honorable Supreme Court of India. It was Assam specific exercise. However, the results of the NCR were not to the liking of many and hence the CAB (now CAA) was brought in. Yes, standalone CAA may not be damaging to a section of Indian population. However, when used in conjunction with NCR it becomes lethal. It would allow the filtration of Muslims because NCR assumes one to be a non-citizen and it is left to the person to prove that he / she is a citizen. However, the CAA allows Citizenship to everybody except Muslims. Even otherwise, prima facie, the CAA is against the provisions of the Constitution of India, particularly, Article 14. Article 14 of the Constitution of India states that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. By leaving out the Muslims from its net, it contradicts this basic principle of the Constitution. The Honorable Supreme Court of India has accepted the plea of concerned citizens to look into the legality of the Act. However, chances that it would be declared null and void by the court look slim. In the meantime, the Union Cabinet has approved to create a National Population Register (NPR). Many argue that NPR is nothing but old wine in new bottle. It is another method of implementing NCR by a different name.
It is worth remembering that the Honorable Supreme Court of India has refused to stay the implementation of CAA 2019. However, it has issued notice to the central government on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Act. A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India said that the matter will be heard in January when the apex court opens after winter break. Now all eyes are on the Highest court of the land to bring closure to the matter.
References and for more information, please see:
India Today (2019, December 12) What is Citizenship Amendment Bill: All you need to know about CAB. Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/citizenship-amendment-bill-all-you-need-to-know-about-cab-1627516-2019-12-11. Accessed on 12 December 2019
Economic Times (2019, December 2) Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in Lok Sabha. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/lok-sabha-passes-citizenship-amendment-bill-2019/articleshow/72447352.cms. Accessed on 12 December 2019.
Times of India (2019, December 12) Citizenship (Amendment) Bill gets President’s accent, becomes Act. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/citizenship-amendment-bill-gets-presidents-assent-becomes-act/articleshow/72498580.cms. Accessed on 13 December 2019
The Wire (2019) ‘More Brutal Than Even Jamia’: AMU Fact Finding Report Accuses UP Police of Violence, Islamophobia. Available at: https://thewire.in/government/amu-caa-protests-up-police. Accessed on 23 December 2019.
Apurva Vishwanath. & Kunain Sheriff M. (2019, December 23). Explained: What NRC+CAA means to you? Available at: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-citizenship-amendment-act-nrc-caa-means-6180033/. Accessed on 23 December 2019.
Times of India (2019, December 18) Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-decides-to-examine-constitutional-validity-of-citizenship-amendment-act/articleshow/72864701.cms. Accessed on 18 December, 2019
Gulf News (2019, December 18). India: Supreme court issues notices to Centre on petitions challenging CAA validity. Available at: https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/india-supreme-court-issues-notices-to-centre-on-petitions-challenging-caa-validity-1.1576650901831. Accessed on 19 December 2019.
In the flurry of opinions and tempers flying all over, I’m interested to see an objective legal and/or constitutional rebuttal of the government’s arguments to push through this amendment.
Perhaps one will emerge after the dust starts to settle from the protests and the heavy-handed police action. Please link if you happen to come across some such.