Globally, we are now going through a very uncertain time. Politically, socially or economically – people all over the world are witnessing several radical changes taking place, somewhere or the other. Currently, our country is witnessing an unprecedented debate on CAB ( Citizenship Amendment Bill ) 2019. The citizenship amendment bill 2019 was introduced in Loksabha on 9th December 2019, by the Minister of Home Affairs. This bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 and seeks to make foreign illegal migrants of certain religious communities from three countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship. On the one hand the NDA Government is trying to reassure people that there is nothing to be afraid of for any Indian citizen of any denomination while on the other hand the opposition is painting the bill as a draconian instrument that goes against the secular credentials of our country.
THE CITIZENSHIP ACT 1955 : AT A GLANCE
Citizenship of a country grants an individual civil and political rights in that country. Articles 5 to 8 of the Indian Constitution govern the conditions under which an individual can get Indian citizenship. Article 11 gives the Government the authority and the power to make rules regarding citizenship. The Citizenship Act of 1955 was enacted by the parliament under Article 11 of the Constitution. This act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods – by birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalisation ( extended residence in India) and by incorporation of territory in India. According to this act, an illegal migrant is prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship. An illegal immigrant is a foreigner who either enters India illegally (i.e without valid travel documents like a visa and passport) or enters India legally, but stays beyond the time period permitted in their travel documents. An illegal migrant can be persecuted in India and deported or imprisoned.
CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2019 : IN A NUT-SHELL
The CAB 2019 proposes that the illegal migrants belonging to six specified religious communities ( Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians ) from three countries ( Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan ) will not be treated as illegal migrants but will be eligible for citizenship. The beneficiaries had to have entered India on or before 31st December 2014 and should have faced ” religious persecution or fear of religious persecution ” in their countries of origin. The act also allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications. The bill does not include Muslims.
Several partsof India have been witnessing violent protests Against Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 owing to its discriminatory nature and the fact that it goes against the secular credentials of India and its constitution. The Government counters this by claiming that this Act does not impact the secular status of India in any way as it does not change the rights or privileges of any Indian citizen, irrespective of his religion or faith. As responsible citizens, we can only hope and demand that whichever decision is beneficial for the greater good of our country should be taken, but it should not harm the common people and disrupt their lives, in any way.