Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 – Part 1

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CAA
Citizenship Amendment Act

Background:

This Act was passed by the Parliament on 11th December, 2019. It amended the earlier Indian Citizenship Act, 1955. There are many things that need to be understood on the Act. However, few basic points are mentioned hereunder:

  • In this Amendment, those migrants who entered India by 31st December, 2014 and faced ‘religious persecution’ in their home country are allowed a way to get Indian citizenship.
  • There are two such ways: One is ‘naturalization’ in which those migrants who lived in India for 6 years (previous limit was 12 years) can apply for such status. Second way is people from ‘undivided India’ were given means of registration after 7 years of residency in India.
  • The Act was previously amended in 1985, 1992, 2003, 2005 and 2015 also. During first amendment in 1985, Assam Accord was signed by the then Government due to violent Assam movement. It granted citizenship to all Bangladeshi migrants that arrived before 1971 subject to some provisions. The government also agreed to expel those who arrived later. This was done because the Assamese enforced that if the government keeps allowing migrants, then it will create pressure on resources for natives.
  • The 2003 amendment mandated Government to create and maintain a National Register of Citizens.
  • India is not a signatory to 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol, hence it does not have a policy on refugees. It considers all refugees as ‘illegal migrants’. Still, India has formulated the goal of ‘protecting persecuted groups’.
  • Coming to the amendment, it has following key features:
  • India citizenship can be granted for persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived in India by 2014.
  • ‘Religious minorities’ means Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians.
  • Exemption is provided to certain class of foreigners i.e. persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely Hindus Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India and do not have valid documents or even if valid documents are available, they have expired.
  • Although exemption were granted to north eastern region that is tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura and the area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
  • The Act also included a provision for cancellation of registration of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI).
  • CAA is again in limelight now because the government on 11th March, 2024 issued a notification on the Act, hence it has become hot topic of discussion.

Here we end with first part of the Article. In the next part, we shall be discussing in detail about the debate that encompasses the CAA and will delve upon the reasons of its criticism.

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