Understanding the rigorous mechanism of the National Register Of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment Act can be tedious work. However, being the citizen of Indian we have to understand the concept at least to a point where we can understand the basic framework.
National Register of Citizens of India is a register introduced by the government of India to maintain the names and certain relevant information for the identification of Indian citizen. The register was first prepared after independence in the 1951 census of India. Recently in 2013, the NRC exercised in the state of Assam with the main purpose of identifying Indian citizens from among all the present residents of the state thereby leading to the identification of illegal migrants residing in that state.
However, the whole idea turns out to be an epic disaster, according to source many Indian citizens failed to prove their citizen despite natural citizen of the country. Now, the fate of those who would not be able to get his or her name entered in the register is a matter under judicial and legislative consideration and more or less uncertain.
If we go through the background of NRC concept you’ll realize that In the year 1965, the government of India took up with the government of Assam to expedite completion of the National Register of Citizens and to issue National Identity Cards based on this register to Indian citizens. But in 1966, the Central Government dropped the proposal to issue identity cards in consultation with the Government of Assam, having found the project impracticable.
In 1971, the formation of Bangladesh caused large scale immigration from the newly formed country to Assam. Locals fiercely protested demanding detention disenfranchisement and deportation of illegal immigrants from Assam. The situation is standstill till date. However, with the introduction of CAB, now immigrants from religious group mainly Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi are allowed to attain citizenship status under certain eligibility criteria.
Now, let’s understand the CAB, The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) recently became law after getting majority support in both houses. Before CAB we had The Citizenship Act to regulate Indian citizenship law. The purpose of the Citizenship Act was to grant citizenship status to people if they are born in India or have Indian parentage or have resided in the country for a while, etc. However, illegal immigrants were denied citizenship under any circumstances.
In 2015 and 2016, the Indian government issued two notifications exempting certain groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and the 1920 Acts. These groups are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.
In 2016, a Bill was introduced to amend the Citizenship Act. The Bill sought to make illegal migrants belonging to these six religions and three countries eligible for citizenship and made some changes in the provisions on registration of Overseas Citizen of India cardholders. It was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, which submitted its report on January 7, 2019. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019. However, it lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
Subsequently, The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019, passed recently in both the houses and hence supersede former Citizenship Act, 1955. Here are the major essence of Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019;
- Consequences of acquiring citizenship: The Bill says that on acquiring citizenship:
- Such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and
- All legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.
- Exception: Further, the Bill adds that the provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. It will also not apply to the areas under the Inner Line under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation.
- The Bill further reduces the period of naturalization for such group of persons from six years to five years.
The bill has been under constant radar ever since its emergence and alleged to be violating the idea of constitution. According to intellectuals, the bill violates Article 14 and 15 of the constitution, which guarantees equality to all persons, including citizens and foreigners and no discrimination based on race, religion, caste, sex and place of birth. The Bill classifies migrants based on their country of origin to include only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Further, it is not clear why migrants from these countries are differentiated from migrants from other neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka.
Concerning classification based on religious persecution of certain minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it may be argued that there are other religious minorities in these countries, who face religious persecution and may have illegally migrated to India. It is also unclear why there is a differential treatment of migrants based on their date of entry into India.
The debate is still on. Meanwhile, there has been a massive protest against the bill in the state of Assam. It’s evident, a certain section of society aren’t satisfied.
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