Realities of Citizenship Amendment Bill
by Prasun Maitra on 15 Dec 2019 11 Comments

After the passing of the amendments in the Citizenship Act, 1955 popularly known as the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, the opposition parties and a section of the media are playing a dangerous game of confusing people by deliberately mixing CAB with the National Register of Citizens (NRC). This cheap ploy for vote bank politics is not only creating false alarms, but also creating a situation of hostility & unrest amongst different communities that have otherwise been living peacefully.


Before falling into the trap of such vicious propaganda, one should be informed that the CAB has brought no major changes in the Citizenship Act, 1955, except (1) considering migrants of minority communities in three neighbouring countries, namely Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as a group for consideration of citizenship and (2) decreasing the number of days of stay in the country for being eligible to be considered for citizenship from 11 years to five years.


Even if these amendments were not made with the above changes, victims of religious persecution from those countries would still get citizenship in India, but they would become eligible for consideration after 11 years and their cases would have been treated individually; this means there would have been chances of discrimination. The CAB has just nullified those chances by taking a humanitarian approach and smoothening the way for them to obtain citizenship of India.   


Those who claim that this Bill (now Act) will be a tool to lure Hindus to come from those countries should remember that the only aim of the Bill is to provide immediate relief to those who have already been compelled to abandon old homes and hearths and come to India. That is why the cut-off date has been fixed as December 31, 2014, so that they can become eligible for citizenship after December 31, 2019.


There is no denying the fact that migration of persecuted minorities in those three countries is a continuous process, and those who have been compelled to come since January 1, 2015, will have to go through the same process as before, the only relief being the shortened number of years of stay in India.


It should also be made clear that the CAB has nothing to do with the NRC. The NRC is a different process that was approved by Parliament way back in 2003. It is to be conducted by the Register General & Census Commissioner of India, unlike the Assam NRC which was done by a group of people chosen by the Supreme Court of India, under its supervision. The Assam NRC was a combination of Judicial and Executive, while the NRC as per rule passed by Parliament will be a combination of Legislative and Executive. Hence, it is quite irrational to compare the Assam NRC with the proposed pan-India NRC, and get sceptical. But efforts are welcome to make the concerned authorities take note of faults in the Assam NRC so that those do not get repeated during national implementation.


I feel amazed at the section of Hindus who are propagating that by passing the CAB, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it possible for the persecuted migrants to forget the atrocities they suffered in neighbouring countries by the majority people of those States, and hence the scope for them to recover their old lands (homes) have been marginalised. This is extremely immature as CAB has nothing to do with their imagined recovery of land. It is, on the contrary, recognition of the atrocities imposed on them due to their religious identity, and an offer of refuge to them.


Those lands were already conceded back in 1947 after agreeing to Partition on the basis of the Two-Nation theory. Recovering their lands, as is being propagated by a section, in foreign countries can only be done through war. Do these people seriously want the Government of India, led by Narendra Modi, to get engaged in war with all three countries right now, just to satisfy their ego? Will that be pragmatic? If these people are really serious for recovery of property /assets of the migrants, CAB does not stop them from trying to achieve their goal. But accusing the Union Government for helping migrants to forget their atrocities by enacting CAB is not only childish but also vindictive.


The Citizenship Amendment Bill has given the persecuted migrants relief from anxiety. It has given them freedom from discrimination. It has recognised them as a persecuted group that can help India to present their cases in different international forums and highlight how minorities are treated in those countries.


In the run-up to the parliamentary elections in 2014, Narendra Modi had asked the electorate the eastern India that if Hindus were persecuted in any part of the world, where, except India, could they turn for solace? We offer a big thanks to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah for standing like rocks in this matter of principle.



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