India’s Citizenship Amendment Act-2019: Confusion, Concerns, Conflicts and Chaos

Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019

There are concerns, curiosity and confusion among citizens on CAA (earlier CAB) and protests erupted at many places and in universities across India.

Here are few concerns to express what is problematic there in CAA, NRC and in present situation:

Even if everything is fine with the bill:

If everything was fine with the bill and despite that there were protest against it in parliament, questions and amendments sought for it, then why such a bill was made passed in a day ignoring the dissent without giving it to parliamentary committee to seek concerns from public? Why such emergency?  Was it such an emergency bill or it was just a power show that we can do whatever with available majority? It brings doubt upon intent.

Even if it was made passed, and when protests erupted after that, why still govt. didn’t form any committee to invite concerns and resolve/reply and still crushing the protest through police and military? Any government, if feel itself responsible for citizens of its country, should clear all doubts and should give time to citizens, civil society, communities to remove all their misunderstanding and confusion.

People are much in doubt because of track record of govt. in recent years, particularly in its misadventures like demonstration, 370, NRC in Assam etc. that only pushed people to believe that leaders in govt. justify only their own decisions and rule in autocratic style while governance is all about being responsible for citizens.

Many chief ministers opposed the bill and even those who voted in favor of bill like BJD and JD(U) have come on front to oppose mixing NRC with this bill in implementation

But, everything with the bill is not right and here is how:

Discriminatory Grounds

The Bill considers ‘Religious persecution’ as a ground to provide citizenship to Non-Muslims who came from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

First of all, why only ‘Religious persecution’ has been taken in consideration and persecutions due to other issues like economic, social, political have been left from considering it as ground is the big question and must be protested.

Moreover, within the Religious persecution itself, why sectorial persecution within the religion, which is very prevalent in communities like Hazara, Shias and Ahmedis have been left. It is also unclear as to how Atheists, who do not believe in any religion have been left out and which country is for them?

Why only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are only countries included in amendment bill and why not other countries is another big question. Hon’ble Home Ministers said in Upper House of Indian parliament that boundary of Afghanistan was with us in pre-partition time and Pakistan and Bangladesh were our part and that’s why these countries are included. Unfortunately, this basis cannot be said as justified as partition was happened 72 years ago, not recently and also that our border also touched to Myanmar (then Burma) during pre-partition era and still touching Nepal, Bhutan, Sri-Lanka and Maldives (Marine border) but why these countries have not been included. Answers are unknown. While the fact that Tamils from Sri-Lanka, Rohingyas from Myanmar are known for their migration due to persecution.

Home Minister in Upper House clearly said that we cannot offer all Muslims to come and to settle in our country. This statement is problematic in terms that no one is asking him to do so, but he must remember that why only Muslims have been left from this bill and why he can offer everyone else to come except Muslims? Is there any solid ground for that? Those who give logic that Hindus cannot go anywhere else must also ask to minister that then why Buddhists, Parsis, Christians included as they can also go to other countries and this country is not birth place of these religions as well.

This bill doesn’t tell what would be status of Tibetan refugees and Srilankan Tamils as they already are in India.

What International Laws state:

International laws are like guiding principles and not abiding with states who are not signatory to it, however under international relations, these are important principles for all states. Here are only few such examples:

Convention related to status of refugees (1951) and amended through 1967 protocol, clearly states (under its Article 1) that ‘refugee is a persecuted person for race, religion, nationality, membership of social group, political opinion…..’ and it clearly restricts state (under Article 3) to discriminate against refugees on these basis and ‘same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as it accorded to state’s own citizens’. Though, India is not a signatory of 1951 Convention and hence its not a legal obligation but it doesn’t lesser its moral obligation.

The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination states that ‘deprivation of citizenship on the basis of race, color, decent, ethnic origin is a breach of states’.

Recently, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized CAA.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also criticized the act with ‘fundamentally discriminatory in nature’.

United States House Committee also questioned the bill.

Who are illegal immigrants and how world looks them

Illegal immigrants are those who enter in a country without any documentation and in violation of immigration law of the country. However, progressive countries even avoid calling them as ‘illegal immigrants’ considering the fact that persons are not illegal and hence they should be termed as ‘undocumented immigrants’. Reasons of these illegal crossings worldwide includes poverty, limited resources, conflicts and wars, persecutions on various basis and in search of better and safer life. In recent times, climate change also becoming a reason of such illegal crossings.

India, as a country with second highest population may not carry more weight upon it through undocumented immigrants, but to stop it, there should be a proper mechanism, with primarily as responsive and honest border crossing mechanism but if someone entered in the boundary, it should have been dealt not on religious basis.

Against the Constitutional Ethos and Against Spirit of Freedom Struggle

Our constitution guarantees equality before law under its Article 14. Our citizenship articles also provides provisions to grant citizenships to people as per already existed under Citizenship Act, 1955.

India never adopted ‘religion’ as a ground for granting citizenship and hence any change to this status would be an attack upon ethos of equality and secularism. India belongs to its people and even in its ancient days, welcomed people from all sides to come and grow together and enhance its diversity. Providing refuge to anyone without discrimination was in its value and culture. Even during modern history’s freedom struggle, people of all religions and identities fought for India and names of Hindus, Mulsims, Sikhs, Parsis and others can be easily seen on the walls of India Gate, in Jalianwalan List and in list of freedom fighters and even during partition when Muslim League demanded a separate nation for Muslims and Britishers approved the same; millions of Muslims never left India as this was the land where generations and generations of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and others born, lived and died together. India, in spirit of its freedom struggle maintained its secular character after Independence.

Generating suspicion, social dis-integrity and dis-harmony

Now provisions to grant citizenship on religious grounds have initiated a new debate and has made ‘Muslims’ as a word that is on denial. Though in CAB (now CAA), it is termed only for Muslims who are in India from other countries. This very basis of separation is problematic and inhumane and it also brings a feeling of exclusion among Muslims who are citizens of India as to why other religions from other countries can be accepted except Muslims when within India, all religions live and had lived together and India doesn’t belong to any single religion.

Exclusion politics for Muslims on HindutvaBrandline

This exclusion politics for Muslims is broad basis among dissatisfaction for everyone who doesn’t accept the ideology of Hindutva. The idea of India and even Hinduism always spoke about equality, inclusivity and diversity while the ideology of Hindutva is attacking those values. Also, the exclusion based on religious identity is a new and ‘expected’ in line with the extremist ideology where Muslims are looked with hate and ‘others’. The Assam NRC exercise brought out example of what can happen to even Indian Muslims once NRC will be tabled as bill in Parliament and this speculation is certainly not an ‘imaginary’ one, instead putting it in parliament has been in pipeline of the present government and then together with CAA+NRC may put millions of Muslims as illegal entrants.

Assam NRC’s fault lines

NRC exercise in Assam brought some 19 Lacs people out of accepted list and hence these people considered as illegal immigrants. Started with all passionate efforts on the suspicion that millions of Bangladeshis have been settled in Assam and need to be deported, this exercise brought a rough proportion of around 12 lacs Hindus and 7 lacs Muslims and hence as a polarized vote bank based party, even state unit of BJP opposed this result and pressurized to central leadership to bring Hindus out from this hell created. Now, CAA may come as a remedy for them as then it will grant citizenship amongst most of the 12 lacs Hindus while there would be nothing for remained 7 lacs Muslims as they will be considered as illegal immigrants. This is when ground reports available where it is probed that even in many among these 7 lacs Muslims are from Hindi belt areas of Bihar and U.P. who with the time got settled in Assam but they do not have any document to prove they are Indian citizens. There are wide spread reports where even former Indian army soldiers have been now put under detention centres as an illegal immigrant. There are reports that Father made it in the list but daughter couldn’t ,Whole family made it in list but mother couldn’t and many such stories where few members of family declared illegal and have been put in detention centres. The whole cumbersome exercise was a hell for poor, illiterate and downtrodden and it didn’t consider right of blood or right of the soil as basis of citizenship.

As per recent statement in Loksabha, it is informed that around 1000 detention centres being built in various districts of Assam to put these illegal immigrants. It is sad to say that probably India may become the only country in world that would put such a huge number of people, based on their religious identity under such large numbers of detention centres. This is infact, cruel, inhumane and against human rights; but it doesn’t matter for present power because our Home Minister already stated that ‘We do not believe in western idea of human rights.’

But on the other hand, even this possibility of granting citizenship to 12 lacs Hindus through CAA in this Assam NRC exercise is not acceptable to native citizens of Assam because as per their demands, they want to protect their indigenous culture from any outsider irrespective of religion. Hence, NRC is nowhere a solution for even Assam and instead created another problem (in addition to already existed refugee problem) after CAA.

Though the bill exempts tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura; but it has become a matter of concern of whole Assam and other NE states. Also, the bill doesn’t include Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland as these states are under Inner Line Permit provision, but to address concern of Manipur, government also added ILP in Manipur too recently.

Unproved Data and Unclear Analysis and Unclear Future

Data provided in support of CAB is nothing. Yes, no data provided as Government doesn’t have any authenticate data regarding how many people from these countries have come and among them how is the religion-wise divison.

Government also has no process to check if the identity of the person came from another country is an accurate one and not based on fake documents. There is no such agency (neither can be) to check this accuracy of identity as scholars argue that India doesn’t have any such agency except R&AW who deals with intelligence gathering from other countries.

Government has no data as to how many people will get benefited from this bill. Certainly, crores of people not going to be and neither crores of people have come to India from these countries. Then why such a haste made and why one religion made left is the question and doubts the integrity of government.

There is no set process or basis to check whether even non-Muslims who came are on the ground of ‘Religious Persecution’and no Muslim who came faced any persecution.

There is no clarity as to how earlier existed Citizenship Act (1955) could not provide citizenship or what attributes it was lacked in providing citizenship to people including religiously persecuted persons and that how many such people applied for such citizenship earlier as it is clear that earlier existed act didn’t behave on religious grounds.

There is no agreement of Government of India with respective governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh regarding return of these ‘illegal’ Muslims who will be identified, neither any process that will prove them as citizens of these countries and hence millions of lives,particularly of Muslims will remain freeze in uncertainty and after NRC, their future is unknown.

If refugee or outsiders migrants are still such a big problem for India, there should be proper study for it regarding the disadvantages and resources spent on such outsiders to actually address its root cause and through sealing the still porous borders, undecided disputed areas for any such entry from any border.

Suffering for common people and a future of ‘Statelessness’ for Muslims

To think that CAA with NRC will only be a problem for Muslims is not the right way, though certainly Muslims will be final sufferers but during the process (that will definitely take few years to complete and that also with errors), common people of all religions will be required to prove their citizenship where Aadhar and PAN and Passport, DL will not be considered as valid documents to prove citizenship and thus long queues, much confusion and chaos will be surfaced and everyone will be running to justify their citizenship with most sufferers as poor, downtrodden and illiterates. Even if this NRC will be ever completed, Muslims will be declared out as illegal and will be put in detention centres with unknown future and treatment, all others may get citizenship through CAA and hence, the CAA will remain an Anti-Muslim bill which will include Muslims in general irrespective of which country they belong at the time of their stay in this land, we call India.

This is like making Muslims feel a second class citizens of this country and after the CAA and NRC, If Muslims will be singled out, this will be state of ‘Statelessness’ for which international community remains concerned and everyone should be and this state is against the principle of elimination of racial discrimination. This is how many Jews were made stateless and faced holocaust through Nuremburg Citizenship Law by Germany.

Illegal immigration is not one sided

Though it is difficult to distinguish and finding actual victims of religious persecutions, the illegal immigration is not one sided even in our country. Though there is probably no official study on numbers of such immigrants in India, but in Bangladesh, there may be around 1.2 million Indians who are living illegally as per few estimates.

India is one among the leading receiver of remittances (money sent to India by NRIs) and Bangladesh is fifth among nations who sent highest remittances to India.

India is not only country where people migrate illegally in to. People, in general move towards countries with better future for life and being a comparatively progressive country, people from few neighboring countries try to enter in India. Many Indians have also migrated illegally in to many countries in last many years and many amongst them also got settled in foreign countries with the time. Even in India’s neighbor countries, illegal migration happened from other countries but they didn’t come out with any such provision/act like CAA.

A myth regarding flow of reducing minority population has been made where data provided were used of 1941 census and hence baseless. In fact, through other sources, it is estimated that minority population in Pakistan (West Pakistan at the time of partition) remain almost stable and even increased with the time since partition. While in Bangladesh (East Pakistan at the time of partition), many Muslims and Non-Muslims migrated and entered in India due to persecution based on religion as well as due to better life prospects. Hence, only religious persecution cannot be termed as the sole reason of any reduction in minority population in these countries.

Is everything bad with CAA?

No, infact, no one is against grant of citizenship to Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs as people including those who are protesting advocate citizenship to these communities. Concern is only regarding singled out Muslim community. Hence protest should not be considered as protest against grant of citizenship, instead, it is against the inequality, against religion-based citizenship and against possible persecution of Muslims in India.

Is CAA and NRC are separate things?

Legally said yes at some extent, but they are linked closely and after implementation, they will affect heavily on Muslims. Moreover, we must know that NRC is mandatory under CA, 1955 through an amendment in year 2003-04 and hence cannot be said as completely separate. There is much possibility that NRC will be implemented nationwide and this will be termed as a sixteen year old requirement with existed amendment of Citizenship Act, 2003.

For or Against National Security?

Many who advocating the bill are favoring it on religious grounds and have notion as Bangladeshi Muslims as security threat without knowing any actual figures. On the other hand, India’s own intelligence agency R&AW expressed concern with the bill that it can be used by foreign agencies to help infiltrate legally in India.

Cost Effective and Need of Hour?

GDP is down, there are already reports that unemployment is at its peak, industries are facing shut downs and surely the need of hours should be addressing most immediate problems for common public good.

Beneficiaries are not counted as per a Loksabha statement by External Affairs Ministry, Even India’s own missions don’t have any reliable data about how many Indians staying and working illegally in foreign countries

As per reports telecasted in NDTV, Rs. 1220 Crore spent in Assam for NRC on 3.06 Cr population that brings Rs. 399/- per person. Hence, with 137 Cr population, it will be Rs. 54,663 Cr which itself is a big amount for a country which needs to address more immediate problems.

Earlier exercises like of making Voter ID cards, compulsory UIDs, Ration cards had already been actions where errors are still unresolved. NRC in Assam took many years to complete and still there are so many errors in the same. All such past experiences only indicates that no nationwide exercise of every citizen’s identity is full proof or perfect and no such exercise had been ever completed without errors. Now in these cases of CAA (where only Non-Muslim migrants will provide documents for getting citizenship) and NRC (where every citizen will have to prove their citizenship through documents), exercise will definitely not be error free again, but the impact of error in these cases will affect heavily as a person may be declared as non-citizen or illegal immigrant.

Generating Protest or Uprising or New Codes for Human Rights Violations?

And at last, even if everything stated above is far-fetched and not the intention of government and people protesting including myself are actually confused, misunderstood and mislead youths, even Large number of people are on streets to protest this disputed act, but administration on direction of government terming it and taking it only as law and order problem despite the fact that these protests are not controlled by any leader, any ideology or organization and hence should be seen as uprising.

Government on the other hand is only handling it through applying force and trying to crush it by all ways. Paramilitary forces have been deployed in civilian areas. Internet is shut down in many parts of country including in National capital and hence curtailing freedom of speech and expression is what government is thinking about. Hundreds of people have been detained, permissions to hold rallies and peaceful marches have been denied and states like Uttar Pradesh announced imposing section 144 in whole state, which is completely against violations of human rights and rights of peaceful assembly.

At Last

And at last, even if everything stated above is far-fetched and not the intention of government and people protesting including myself are actually confused, misunderstood and mislead youths, even then also, my government should act in accountable and responsible ways to remove these suspicions and to address doubts, to clear confusions and to answer the questions as there are no reasons to not doing this except that all above are possibilities and my constitution will be smashed.

Ravi Nitesh is petroleum engineer, youth leader and human rights activist.

[email protected] | Twitter @ravinitesh |




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