Unless you live under a rock, you probably have been inundated with news of the Citizen Amendment Bill(CAB), 2019.
It’s okay if you’re clueless about the details, I’ll help you to understand the Bill in an easy and concise manner.
Let’s get started, shall we?
What is the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 all about?
The main idea is to make it easier for undocumented immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to get Indian citizenship. However, the catch is that these immigrants can’t be Muslims.
The Bill specifically mentions Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, all minority groups in the three majority Muslim countries. The government believes that this will offer sanctuary to “persecuted religious minorities” from the three neighboring countries.
Is the bill discriminatory in nature and does it violates Article 14?
“Who is doing discrimination? We aren’t!” said Amit Shah. “You are saying we’re singling out minorities? We are giving rights to minorities only. But the minorities are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.”
This was the argument that Home minister, Amit Shah gave in parliament while battling out the opposition on Monday.
The opposition says that this bill violates Article 14. Let’s see what it is?
What is Article 14 and does the Citizenship Bill violate it?
Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law or equal protection within the territory of India.The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of law within the territory of India Rule of law 1.Absence of arbitrary power or supremacy of the constitution 2.Equality before law 3.The constitution is the result of ordinary law of the land.Source : Wikipedia
In short, state shall not deny equality before the law within the Indian territory on the basis of caste, religion, race, sex or place of birth.
But Shah insisted they were all wrong because Article 14 allowed for “Reasonable Classification” when it came to making laws. Simply put, the state can discriminate between citizens on the grounds of gender, religion, caste, race, or place of birth if special benefits are being offered to them. The only restriction is that discrimination should be based on a reasonable and clearly defined definition of the group of people in question.
Think about it in this way: A person belonging to marginalized castes in India enjoys reservations in education and government jobs. The idea of “Reservation” is discriminatory in nature, but as long as it’s being done to uplift the group in question, the Parliament is free to make rules about this.
So, whether the Citizenship Bill is discriminatory is a question that would probably be answered by the court at a later stage.
Why does the Bill not consider countries other than Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan?
In the Lok Sabha, questions were asked about what would happen to undocumented migrants from other neighboring countries, particularly Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, and the Maldives. Why were people from these countries excluded from the scope of this Bill? MPs asked.
Shah responded that for now only countries that have Islam as their state religion were being considered. Why so? Because, Shah claimed, the populations of non-Muslims in Bangladesh and Pakistan had been declining. “What happened to minorities in this country?” he questioned, referring to Pakistan. “They were either converted, they ran away, they came to India, or they were killed.”
For migrants from other places, Shah pointed out, there’s a Standard Operating Procedure, laid out in a letter issued in 2011.
Under SOP State Government/Union Territory Administration will urge the Ministry of Home Affairs for grant of Long Term Visa (LTV) after due security verification. A foreigner to whom LTV is permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs will be allowed to take up any employment in the private sector or to undertake studies in any academic institution.
Benefits that refugees will avail under this Bill?
Individuals the Citizenship Bill covers would include permission to
- take up self-employment or conduct business
- open bank accounts
- buy property
- get a driver’s license
- free movement within India.
PAN and AADHAR are also obvious benefits. Voter Cards may also be possible.
The main problems with the Bill?
- The first hurdle is to pass the constitutional hurdle that whether it aligns with Article 14 or not.
- Why this law is even required if we have Standard Operating Procedure, which distinguishes between minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and those from other countries?
- Some people believe that this template of legislation may lead to religion-based exclusion in the future.
Do Indian Muslims need to worry?
Absolutely not! CAB has absolutely nothing to do with Indian Muslims. It doesn’t snatch or take away any right whatsoever.
This bill doesn’t harm any Muslim citizens of India. It just benefits 31,313 minority individuals who were living in oppression in Muslim majority nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, where their identity was under the radar of extension!
Here are 4 major takeaways:
- The Bill relaxes the 11-year requirement for citizenship by naturalization to 5 years for persons belonging to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan,
- The Bill makes illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014, eligible for Indian citizenship,
- These provisions of Bill will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution as well as the areas which are regulated through the Inner Line Permit.
- The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be canceled if they violate any law notified by the central government.
But, still, see the amount of propaganda and panic situations the opposition has created around it. We’re lucky that we’ve social media due to which we expose their propaganda. Imagine the situation otherwise!
Here’s a Twitter thread that busts some myths about the bill. Do give it a look.