Why is the Citizenship Amendment Act necessary

The CAA 2019, recently implemented by the Union Government through new rules, offers a pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

The BJP-led Union Government notified the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 rules on March 11 2024, for granting citizenship through certificates of registration and naturalisation. Known as the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, these new rules aim to expedite the giving of citizenship to undocumented non-Muslim immigrants belonging to persecuted minority communities. This includes six different religions, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Parsis from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, who had entered India on or before December 31 2014.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was initially passed in the Rajya Sabha on December 11 2019 and cleared the lower house two days earlier on December 9. Though the Bill does not affect Indian Muslims or their rights at all, the anti-BJP Opposition camp comprising the Indian National Congress, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress, and others unleashed a steady barrage of misinformation campaigns through mainstream and social media in a bid to project it as anti-Muslim. It thereby sparked massive protests in some states, and the Bill has been put on hold until now.

Importance of CAA

With the unveiling of the new rules on March 11 2024, those eligible under the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 can now apply for the grant of Indian citizenship, marking a crucial step towards providing refuge to the displaced minorities from those above three Islamic nations. Thus, the CAA will provide a legal pathway to those belonging to the discriminated and persecuted communities, comprising Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis, to acquire Indian citizenship.

As such, the CAA can be viewed as a natural response and an appropriate means to address the concerns of the historical injustices and exploitations suffered by these displaced communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It is a humanitarian gesture aimed at offering assistance, asylum, and citizenship rights in India to the vulnerable and persecuted minorities who have nowhere else to turn for refuge. By offering them a sense of security and belongingness, the CAA only provides sanctuary to those in need, thereby upholding India’s tradition of hospitality. The Citizenship Amendment Act also enables India to improve the plight of persecuted minorities while upholding its national commitment to pluralism, equality, secularism, and humanitarianism.

Why some sections oppose CAA

Though the CAA just aims to establish a framework for migrants who might have been considered “illegal” otherwise by providing them with the opportunity to apply for Indian citizenship if they fulfil certain conditions, the Act has faced opposition from some anti-BJP political parties. As part of their vote bank politics, the Chief Ministers of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal have threatened to prevent the implementation of the CAA in their states. They have taken this stand purely to appease their Muslim vote banks despite knowing very well that state governments have no scope to block the Union’s move as the Union Government is exclusively in charge of all matters related to granting citizenship, naturalisation, and other rights to immigrants and foreigners.

Furthermore, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a Kerala-based political party, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking an immediate stay on the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and its Rules until the apex court delivers its verdict on their constitutionality. Stating that the CAA Rules notified on March 11 create a “highly truncated and fast-tracked process” for the grant of citizenships to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, the IUML claimed in the petition that this move would make operational a “manifestly arbitrary and discriminatory” regime solely on the ground of religious identity.

IUML has also urged the registrar concerned to fix an urgent hearing of its petition.

Meanwhile, Union Home Ministry officials have asserted that the opposition expressed by some Chief Ministers of some states will have no impact on the implementation of the CAA and its rules as the authority to decide on issues related to citizenship vests with the Union Government. Furthermore, as the applications for citizenship have to be filed online, the procedure leaves no scope for the involvement of State government officials or local police.

 What the future looks like

Knowledgeable sources say the Supreme Court is unlikely to quash the CAA or grant a stay against its implementation because the Bill became law only after marathon debates in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, where all the relevant points were extensively and passionately considered, examined and analysed thoroughly. Furthermore, the Union Government had made a sound case for its implementation by introducing historical elements into the debate.

Furthermore, soon after the CAA was passed in 2019, several petitions were filed by political parties, Muslim groups, and human rights activists in the Supreme Court challenging its constitutional validity. In response to those petitions, on January 22 2020, the apex court refused to put the CAA on hold. Then again, on May 20 2020, the apex court once again refused to stay the implementation of the CAA while responding to a fresh plea that it was not consistent with the Assam Accord, which was intended to prevent the local Assamese from becoming a demographic minority in their state

(The article Why is the Citizenship Amendment Act necessary published in ‘Organiser’)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *