Citizenship Amendment Act: What is it?

The CAB bill (Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019) was passed in the Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019 with 125 votes in favor and 105 votes against. The bill received presidential assent on December 12, 2019. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to make illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

According to the 1955 law, a person must have resided in India (or been in the service of the Central Government) for at least 11 years in order to be eligible for citizenship. The amended Act reduces that period to five years for all migrants from these three countries belonging to these six religious communities. 

Citizenship Amendment Act

Exemption to the Citizenship Amendment Act 

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the area covered under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. This effectively means that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram along with almost whole of Meghalaya and parts of Assam and Tripura would stay out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Besides, the citizenship bill also makes amendments to provisions related to the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders. As per the citizenship bill, a foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin.

Why is Citizenship Amendment Act seen as a problem?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 has triggered widespread protests across India. The Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation. They will be granted fast-track Indian citizenship in six years. So far 12 years of residence has been the standard eligibility requirement for naturalisation. The anger over CAA led to street protests, first in Assam that later spread to Delhi and other parts of the country.

Difference between CAA and NRC

CAB NRC
CAB will provide Indian citizenship based on religion. NRC has nothing to do with religion.
CAB likely to benefit non-Muslim immigrants. NRC is aimed at deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of their religions.
CAB to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. NRC Assam was aimed at identifying ‘illegal immigrants’, mostly from Bangladesh.
CAB will grant citizenship to the religious minorities who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. NRC will include those who can prove that either they or their ancestors lived in India on or before March 24, 1971.

What is the govt’s logic on this?

Citing partition between India and Pakistan on religious lines in 1947, the NDA government has argued that millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths were staying in Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1947. “The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day-to-day life where right to practice, profess and propagate their religion has been obstructed and restricted. Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents,” the Bill states. 

Why are the states angry about CAA?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 has triggered widespread protests across India. Among the states in the Northeast, the outrage against CAB has been the most intense in Assam. While a chunk of these states have been exempted from the legislation, CAB overs a large part of Assam. The protests stem from the fear that illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, if regularised under CAB, will threaten cultural and linguistic identities of the state. 

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