Citizenship Amendment Act Implemented Across Country Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections 2024

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Central Government Notifies To Implement CAA

| Updated: March 11, 2024 20:28

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), thrusting the law back into the public discourse.

Originally passed by the Central Government in Parliament in 2019, the CAA aims to grant Indian citizenship to refugees from six communities – Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis – who have fled from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Act, however, sparked protests due to its exclusion of Muslims.

The CAA was a key component of the BJP’s manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had previously stated last month that the CAA would be implemented ahead of this year’s Lok Sabha elections.

What is the Citizenship Amendment Act?

It is an act that was passed in the Parliament on December 11, 2019, which was Introduced by the Modi government .The 2019 CAA amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 allowing Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minorities who fled from the neighboring Muslim majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014 due to “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution”. However, the Act excludes Muslims.

Under CAA 2019 amendment, migrants who entered India by December 31, 2014 and had suffered “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” in their country of origin, were made eligible for citizenship by the new law. These type of migrants will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years.

The amendment also relaxed the residence requirement for naturalization of these migrants from eleven years to five. This law doesn’t automatically grant them citizenship, it just makes them eligible to apply for it. They will have to demonstrate that they have lived in India for five years and that they came to India before December 31, 2014. They must prove that they fled their countries due to religious persecution. They speak languages from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and meet the requirements of the Third Schedule of the Civil Code 1955. Through this, they will be eligible to apply. After that, it will be up to the Government of India whether it grants them citizenship or not.

What does CAA do?

The citizenship law does not automatically confer citizenship; it merely renders individuals eligible to apply. Applicants must demonstrate that they have resided in India for a period of five years and that they arrived in India prior to December 31, 2014. They must provide evidence of having fled their home countries due to religious persecution. Furthermore, they must speak languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and meet the requirements of the Third Schedule of the Civil Code 1955. Fulfilling these conditions makes them eligible to apply. The final decision on whether to grant citizenship rests with the Government of India.

India’s Visa Policy for Refugees: A Non-Inclusive Approach

India’s long-standing policy has been non-inclusive, a stance that predates the current government. This policy is particularly evident when dealing with refugees from constitutionally Islamic nations. Despite fleeing oppressive conditions in their home countries, Muslim refugees find little relief in India due to the country’s reluctance to neutralise them from a policy perspective.

Refugees who do not qualify (regardless of religion) will continue to be protected under India’s ad-hoc refugee policy, under which long term stay visas are issued to them to stay in India.
According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, many refugees from countries like Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Afghanistan etc. are living comfortably in India. The government says that this law does not cover Muslim refugees, because our position is that when the situation becomes safe for them, the refugees can and should return to their homes.

Challenges Faced by Non-Muslim Refugees

Non-Muslims from neighbouring countries face constitutional challenges, often subjected to such severe atrocities that their right to live there is questioned. Consequently, granting amnesty to non-Muslims seems a logical step. However, Muslims are treated as separate cases, as demonstrated by India’s approach to Muslim refugees from countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

Government’s Response to the Rohingya Issue

The Rohingya issue, originating from Burma, is a complex one for India. The Rohingya arrived in India during the time of undivided India when Britain occupied Burma. As Burma does not recognise them as part of its ethnic groups and citizenship, India finds itself in a controversy. Granting Rohingya the right to be neutralised in India could upset Burma. While the Rohingya have received refugee protection and long-term visas in India, they are not eligible for citizenship.

Is the law Anti-Muslim?

The government maintains that this law is not anti-Muslim. Any individual in India due to atrocities will eventually be repatriated. It should not be assumed that they will ever be eligible for citizenship here. Those suffering from permanent atrocities will be given protection. The policy of non-inclusion will continue. However, if the refugee situation does not improve over the next 50 years, India may need to enhance their protection through additional ad hoc constitutional legislation, a move that is not currently policy.

It provides a pathway for certain religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, due to fear of religious persecution.

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