Controversy related to Citizenship Amendment Act
Parul Madaan 24 Dec 2019

Controversy related to Citizenship Amendment Act



The Citizenship Act,1955 passed by the Indian government prohibited the acquisition of Indian citizenship by illegal migrants. This act described illegal immigrants as citizens of other countries who entered India without valid travel documents or who stayed in the country after the time permitted by their travel documents and also provided for the deportation or imprisonment of illegal immigrants.

 In 2016, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the 2019 Indian general election, introduced a bill to amend the law on citizenship that would have made non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh eligible for Indian nationality. The bill focuses on allowing those who have fled religious persecution in neighboring countries faster access to citizenship

 Although the Lok Sabha passed this bill, it stalled in the Rajya Sabha after widespread political opposition and protests in Northeastern India that did not want any Bangladeshi migrants. With the exception of non-tribal cities listed under pre-existing regulations, it excluded Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur. It also left out Assam's tribal areas.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019(hereinafter referred to as (“the Act”)) was passed on 11 December 2019 by the Parliament of India. It amended the citizenship act, 1955 and the Persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.

The Bill includes new provisions for the cancelation of the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) registration, such as fraud registration, in the case of OCI holder sentenced to two or more years ' imprisonment within five years of registration and strictly for the sake of Indian sovereignty and protection. It also includes a clause that violates any law notified by the central government. It also includes a provision on violation of any law notified by the central government and it adds the opportunity for the OCI holder to be heard before the cancellation.

But the law has removed Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and the new Act does not give citizenship to refugees from non-Muslim countries. The amendment is limited to India's Muslim-majority neighbors and, second, it does not accept Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan's oppressed Muslims.


Protests and complaints stem from the Act. Protesters were against the naturalization of any and all refugees in the eastern regions of India. According to them, this Act's new provisions are contradictory to previous agreements such as the Assam Agreement. Political and student activists in other parts of India protested that the law "marginalizes Muslims is counterproductive to Muslims and sought that Muslim migrants and refugees should also be granted Indian citizenship per its secular foundations.

Despite the bill's clearance on December 4, 2019, violent protests broke out in Assam. Demonstrations took place in Agartala and six people died there and 50 people were wounded in demonstrations against the Act. Assamese women protesters said they "wanted peace, not migrants from Bangladesh," and the influx of refugees and migrants would destroy their state, culture, and community harmony.

Internet access in the state of Assam has been limited. Curfew was imposed because of the protests in Assam and Tripura. Tripura's royal family filed a petition against the bill in India's Supreme Court.[The army was called in as protesters challenged those curfews. Railway services were suspended and some airlines began offering refunds in those areas for the rescheduling or cancelation fee.

 As a result, the police entered the Jamia Millia Islamia University campus, where protests were taking place, and detained the students. The officers used the students with batons and tear gas. More than one hundred students have been injured and the same number have been detained. The police action has been widely criticized, resulting in nationwide protests. Seven demonstrations were also banned by the police in several parts of India with the enforcement of section 144, which forbids the assembly of more than 4 persons in public space as unlawful, including parts of the capital of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, including Bangalore. Police in Chennai denied permission for marches, rallies or any other demonstration. Internet services were shutdown in several parts of Delhi.


National Scenario

·         Commentators expressed concern that people who are unable to produce the necessary documents to prove their citizenship and inclusion in the NRC will be recognized as migrants and granted Indian citizenship under the Bill, provided that they are "of any nationality other than Muslim;" the latter would risk being stateless because they are not protected by the Bill.

·          The CAB revolves around Muslim identity by announcing India as a welcoming place for all other religious communities. This seeks to establish Muslims legally as second-class Indian people by providing other classes with preferential treatment. It infringes Article 14 of the Constitution, the fundamental right of all persons to equality. And yet, the government maintains that it does not discriminate or violate the right to equality.

·          The Indian National Congress opposed the bill, which argued that it would generate communal tensions and polarize India.

·          The Indian Union Muslim League appealed to the Supreme Court of India to find the bill unconstitutional and more than 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars signed a petition against the bill. A similar number of Indian academics and intellectuals from various universities and institutions issued a joint statement in support of the bill.



International scenario

·          The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations (OHCHR) condemned the Act as' fundamentally discriminatory in nature.' "While the wider naturalization laws of India remain in place, these changes will have a discriminatory effect on people's access to nationality,"

·          The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for sanctions against Amit Shah and "other big leadership" to pass the Bill. In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India issued a statement saying that the USCIRF's statement was "not true or justified" and that neither the CAB nor the NRC tried to deprive Indian people

·         .The United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs challenged the intention of the Bill and stated that "any religious test for citizenship violates this most fundamental democratic concept. However, on 19 December, the United States Secretary of State said that the United States values Indian democracy as it has a" robust "internal debate on the Citizenship Act.

·         Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, criticized the Act for "violating both international human rights principles and bilateral agreements with Pakistan."

·          Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia attacked the law saying that "India, which claims to be a secular state, is now taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship."


The Bill amends the 1955 Citizenship Act and will, for the first time, offer religious citizenship to non-Muslim communities such as Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. The amendment relaxes the second criterion from 11 years to 5 years as a special requirement for applicants belonging to the six religions listed, and the three countries mentioned above. The Bill's underlying critique, however, was that it attacks Muslims directly. Critics argue that it violates the principle of secularism and Article 14 of the Constitution. Despite some exception given to some regions in the northeastern states, the possibility of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal migrants from Bangladesh has caused deep state anxieties. The Bill also provides no clarity on the scope of the laws that can be told by the central government. The Supreme Court acknowledged that this guidance is necessary in order to impose limitations on the powers of the authority and to prevent arbitrariness in the exercise of powers.

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