Preamble of Indian constitution states that India is a secular country and secularism in India means a state that is neutral to all religious groups. There is no provision for citizenship on the basis of religious identity in Indian constitution.
But Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 raises several issues. It makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship based on their religion. Its clearly violation of basic stucture and Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
A joint committee of parliamentarians is already examining the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which seeks to amend the 1955 Act to permit members of six communities Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for citizenship if they had entered the country before December 14, 2014.
The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.
Illegal migrants from these countries who belongs to other religious minorities or Atheists who do not identify with a religious group will not be eligible for citizenship. Its a religion communaly motivated bill.By seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religious denomination, it is blatantly in violation of the Indian constitution.
Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law or equal protection within the territory of India and prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, or any of them. This right is not only for citizens but also a right of non-citizens .
And by making special provisions for citizenship on the grounds of religious persecution, has introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law. Indeed by marking out Muslims as a residual category
If the bill aims to save religious minorities from violence in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The rationale for selecting just these three countries, which are Muslim-dominated countries is a cause for concern. Muslim minority communities facing oppression in other countries have been completely ignored. If it is truly a humanitarian move for minorities who are facing violence in their countries then it should also offer the same provisions to the minority Muslim communities .
Muslims are considerably discriminated and exploited in the neighbouring countries.Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Uyghur Muslims in China, and the Ahmaddiya Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh .Myanmar’s Hindus have also been ignored in the bill.
The National Register of Citizens .The NRC was prepared in 1951,after the Census of 1951.
The NRC of 1951 is being updated for Assam in accordance with the tripartite agreement between the state and central governments and the All Assam Students Union (AASU).A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) in 1979.Assam is the first state in India to conduct the massive exercise of bringing out an NRC.
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 will violate the clauses of Assam Accord and grant citizenship to illegal immigrants, who came to Assam till 2014.
Various organisations in Assam are opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 on grounds that it will legitimised lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. This policy in the Indian context would be contrary to the ideals of secularism and pluralism and thus unconstitutional.Citizenship Amendment Bill will be a threat to our constitution and democracy.
Nataasha Khan is a Law Student.