The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill despite objections raised by the Opposition. Introducing the Bill, Union Minister for Home Affairs, Amit Shah said that while no where does this bill target India's minority community, but illegal immigrants would not be allowed to stay in the country at any cost.
What does Citizenship (Amendment) Bill say?
The CAB amends the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens. It was first introduced in Parliament in July 2016, seeking to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 by making religion a basis for citizenship.
The Bill enables illegal migrants, or those who have overstayed their visas, who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from three countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — to apply for Indian citizenship.
They will only have to live or work in India for six years to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation, the process by which a non-citizen acquires the citizenship or nationality of that country.
The Bill has, however, exempted certain areas in the North-East from this provision — the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
The applicant should have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, to be eligible for citizenship.
Why is the Bill controversial?
The Bill has been criticised for granting citizenship based on religion and violating Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality to every person and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. This applies to people even if they are not citizens of India.
If the Bill, like it says is to protest the minorities, why are they excluding the Muslim minorities, who have faced persecution in the own countries? Eg. the (Ahmadis in Pakistan, Rohingyas in Myanmar and Sri Lankan Muslim Tamils).
The critics have been asking as to why other countries neighbouring India have been left out, like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar.
Why are people of North-east protesting?
A large section of people and organisations in the northeast have opposed the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all undocumented immigrants irrespective of religion.
The current bill has set a cut-off of date of December 31, 2014.
People in north-east India are objecting the Bill for different reasons, fearing that large numbers of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who they say are intruders, will be given citizenship.
However, their main concern is the influx of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, which they say will threaten the identity of indigenous communities. The protesters have alleged that the seven north-eastern states have already faced a massive influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
How is National Register of Citizens (NRC) linked to the CAB
The CAB and NRC are closely linked because the Citizenship Amendment Bill will help protect protect the non-Muslims who were excluded from the NRC and were facing the threat of deportation or internment.
This means tens of thousands of Bengali Hindu migrants who were not included in the NRC can still get citizenship to stay on in Assam state.