CAA, NRC challenge Indian citizenship

Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019

If one considers the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) alone, it appears that the Centre is providing some concessions to ‘immigrants’ coming from three neighbouring Islamic nations into India, classifying them as religious minorities persecuted in those nations, to secure citizenship in India.

The concession offered is that if they reside six years in India, it will be enough to get this right as against 12 years condition prescribed in original Citizenship Act 1951.

But the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 named six religions and confined concessions to them only, they are: Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Zorastrians and Christians.

The BJP government justified specific exclusion of Muslims saying that they are not minorities in their nations and were not persecuted.

It also claimed that if any of Muslim immigrant desires to have citizenship in India, he can get it provided he resides for 12 years and fulfil conditions in original Citizenship Act. All these are undisputed facts and the legal provisions in public domain.

But when the CAA provisions are examined in the context of NRC, the inferences are totally different and frightening.

As per statements of the Union Home Minister, the National Register for Citizens (NRC) will be taken up at national level and each infiltrator “ghuspaithiyas” (illegal immigrants) will be thrown out of India “one by one”. The language is changed from ‘immigrant’ to ‘infiltrator’.

In addition to this, the experience of NRC in Assam was very painful to both Hindus and Muslims. Most of the persons in Assam are feeling threatened with statelessness – which is very dangerous than having no ration card, Aadhaar card or voter card.

He or she is facing the question of existence, basic and natural right of being an Indian is under threat. Is he/she an Indian? Should each one of them prove Indianness? How do they prove?

Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi asked in a mammoth rally recently: “Why should I stand in queue and tell that I am an Indian? I have been born in this land.

I am a citizen (of India). All 100 crore Indians must stand in a queue (to submit proof of citizenship). This is not just the issue of Muslims but an issue concerning all Indians.

I am telling CAA supporters also. You also have to stand in queue and bring documents…” He also claimed that “Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said 5.40 lakh Bengali Hindus in Assam will get citizenship through CAA, but five lakh Muslims would be deprived of the same.

Why are we protesting? We are protesting because, in the country, in the name of religion, preparation is being made to make us not just second-class citizens but stateless.” These are extremely relevant questions of the people.

What evidence will be convincing the clerks, bureaucrats or babus who take up the process of registering the citizens? It is feared that people, especially Muslims, will be excluded due to absence of documents, or deficiencies in documents like spelling mistakes. This happened with many applicants (both Hindu and Muslim) during the NRC process in Assam.

If this problematic, difficult and complex, sometimes almost impossible to convince exercise of registration of citizenship is extended to whole of India, how many millions will become state-less and perhaps should languish in detention centres?

The CAA plus NRC plus provocative statements of BJP leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah plus experience in Assam put together resulted in mass protests all over the country.

With escalating resistance and opposition to the Centre’s plan, whatever it was, the Union government is rightly backtracking. First step it took back is delinking the CAA from its earlier statements of nationalising the NRC plan.

Prime Minister, Home Minister and Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the government had not decided when the exercise would begin or what its modalities would be. “The draft is also not yet prepared. Neither the Cabinet nor the legal department has approved it.

NRC is not going to happen immediately. Some people in the name of NRC are trying to spread fear,” he said. Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assured that national NRC was now not contemplated.

There “has so far been no discussion on the (NRC) matter at any level of the government” as of now and that there is “no plan for a nationwide NRC” yet…NRC is limited to Assam. There is no plan of NRC in any other part of the country.

You are talking about an unborn baby… Spreading rumours about it.” He further said: “Who is NRC for? It is for Indian nationals. Does it say it is only about Indian Muslims? No, it does not.

NRC, if it at all happens… no government can do it surreptitiously. That is why the government has clarified, issued advertisements and said that there is no process on that yet, no discussion at any level in the government so far on a nationwide NRC.”

This is a U-turn from the earlier stand of the Union Home Minister who has been declaring in almost all election rallies and interviews that a nationwide NRC is in the works and the government will drive out illegal immigrants.

On December 9, Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament also that a nationwide NRC was on the cards. He distinguished it from the new citizenship law and said the NRC would have no religious filter.

He agreed that there is religious filter in offering the citizenship to immigrants who have already residing in India. If that is so, will a new law for NRC for rest of India will come up?

Then the situation changed. The BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav said, “It’s premature to talk about NRC as the government has not yet made any details about it available.”

It should be a major relief? Then the government is still to explain what about NRC in Assam, which is the epi-centre of agitation.

Today in Assam or West Bengal, a Bengali Hindu can claim to be from Bangladesh. In other parts of India, as per CAA, can any person claim to be immigrant from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan? For instance, if a Muslim cannot meet the eligibility criteria for NRC, once those are finalised, he might lose citizenship.

Another worrying factor is the prospect of detention centres, whether they are existing and going to be established to house those who could not produce necessary documents.

Assam already has six detention centres attached to jails and is setting up an exclusive one in Goalpara. Mumbai and Bengaluru detention centres are being set up this year. Can we believe the assurances?

***                       ***

(Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu was a Professor at Nalsar University of Law in Hyderabad, former Central Information Commissioner and presently Professor of Law, and Dean at Bennett University, Greater Noida.

Email:[email protected])

Courtesy : Hans News Service | 24 Dec 2019



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