The Citizenship Amendment Act

On 9th December 2019 Home Minister of India, Amit Shah, introduced the citizenship amendment bill in the Parliament. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 10th December and in Rajya Sabha on the 11th. The law that came into effect from 10 January 2020 is the now controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Since then there have been protests in many parts of the country, often violent leading to riots and arson, incited by Congress and left-liberal politicians and activists. What is this law, why is it causing riots and are the concerns of the rioters justified?

Our Constitution has 22 parts and 395 articles. The provisions of citizenship are described in part 2 of the constitution comprising of articles 5-11. Article 11 gives the Parliament power to override everything else in part 2 and to define all the matters related to citizenship.  

In 1955, Indian parliament legislated the Citizenship Act which defines the conditions under which a person can become an Indian citizen. So, what are the ways in which a person can acquire Indian citizenship? There are 5 ways in which a person can become an Indian citizen in today’s time

By birth – when a person is born inside of India and if both parents are already Indian citizens at the time of birth or if one of the parent is a citizen and the other parent is not an illegal migrant.

By descent – if a person is born outside of India and if one of the parent is an Indian citizen and the birth is registered at an Indian consulate

Citizenship by registration – for example if someone is married to an indian citizen and they have stayed in India for at least 7 years.

Citizenship by naturalization – for example if you are a foreigner and have stayed in India for at least 15 years.Citizenship by incorporation of territory – if India takes over any territory.

The citizenship act was modified 6 times since 1955 – in 1985, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and most recently in December 2019. Most relevant to the current situation are the amendments in 1985, 2003 and 2019. The 1985 amendment to citizenship act was done to implement provisions of the Assam Accord and introduced section 6A of the citizenship act. The amendment in 2003 introduced the concept of illegal migrants who were barred from acquiring Indian Citizenship. This amendment also incorporated that the Central government may maintain a national register of Indian Citizens.

Finally, the most recent amendment which has triggered the left-liberals. This amendment does 2 things. First, if a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or a Christian from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan had already entered India on or before 31st December of 2015, such a person has been exempted from the definition of illegal migrants. What is an illegal migrant? Someone who enters India without proper documents or has stayed back even after expiry of visa. Second, for these people who have been exempted from the illegal migrant definition, the time required for them to stay in India to obtain citizenship by naturalization has been reduced to 6 years. Normally, people have to wait for 12 years to become Indian citizens by naturalization.

That’s all that it does. It does not take away citizenship from anyone who is already a citizen of India. It doesn’t even stop anyone from becoming a citizen of India in future through due process. This would be clear to anyone who is open minded and can comprehend basic English. This amendment to the act does nothing to harm Muslims or any other group. In fact, there is not even the word Muslim anywhere in the entire text of the amended citizenship act. All that it does is to help a few people who were once citizens of India and are now facing persecution in their native countries because they pray to a different god.

One of the objections raised by those opposing this act is that it does not give shelter to groups within the Muslim community like the Ahmadiyyas or the Shias who too face persecution in Pakistan. This is totally a incorrect. The truth is all routes to citizenship that were earlier available to such people are still available. Nothing has been removed from the Citizenship Act due to this amendment. If there we no such provisions before, one has to wonder why those opposing citizenship to persecuted Hindus now never bothered to raise the issue of these muslim groups ever before. Have we ever heard of a Ahmadiyya refugee camp anywhere in India? These people really don’t care for aAmadiayyas or the Shias. The real motive is to oppose Hindus who are fleeing persecution.

Probably the most uneducated criticism of CAA is that it is unconstitutional because it violates article 14 that guarantees equality before law. The anti-CAA revolutionaries in Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University and JNU wouldn’t be making such statements if they had ever read the very next article in Constitution, specifically the clause 5 of article 15 which allows the government to make reservations for socially and educationally backward classes and schedule castes and tribes in any educational institution, including private ones that do not get a paisa from the government, unless they are run by minority communities.

If they read a little further there is the Article 30 which gives a right to establish and manage educational institutions without interference from government exclusively to minority religious groups. No such right is extended to Hindus. Then we have laws like the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act in several states. As it is obvious from the name, these laws are specific to Hindus and allow the government to take over the administration of any temple to the total exclusion of the local Hindu community. So the anti-CAA warriors should actually find out what is in the constitution before talking about equality and discrimination.   

When people say something is anti-a person or group, what I usually understand is that there is some harm being done to that person or group. But with CAA leave alone doing harm, Muslims are not even in the picture. So I just cannot understand how CAA is anti-Muslim. Unless of course what is being left unsaid is that Muslims somehow have a God (who they claim is only One and no one else) given right to persecute kaffirs and this act is harming them by preventing that. And if you hear the slogans during anti-CAA protests – hinduon se azaadi, kafiron se azaadi, jinnewali azaadi, there is no other god except Allah, all idols will be broken and only Allah’s name will remain – the real agenda is pretty clear.

Next comes the bigger villain of the show, the national register of citizens or the NRC. And this is probably the most irrational part of this entire saga. People are rioting, burning buses and trains and spilling blood to protest against something that doesn’t even exist. That government of India should prepare a register of Indian citizens was introduced in the citizenship act in the 2003 amendment. So the concept of NRC has been part of our law for the last 17 years. We should all remember that when the 2003 amendment was made, the Congress also supported that. There was no controversy then. There is no reason for controversy now. We should remember that after NRC was introduced into the citizenship act, from 2004 to 2014 Congress was in power for 10 years. And for the first 5 years, that government was propped up by the left parties. If the Congress and the leftists believed that NRC was so dangerous, they had 10 years to delete it from the law. But they didn’t and are now unleashing violence and arson on the streets.

Home minister Amit Shah and PM Modi on multiple occasions have clarified that not even discussions have started in the government regarding NRC. How is it going to be done, when is it going to be done, what are going to be its modalities, what documents will be required, what kind of grievance redressal mechanisms will be available; we know nothing about any of these things. It will probably take many years before the NRC mechanism is worked out. What we know instead are rumours and misinformation being spread by forces with a sinister agenda.

These people are talking about requirement of documents to prove that you or your parents were citizens of India before 1971. Again this is patently false. That was a requirement specific to the NRC in Assam as a result of Assam accord signed by Rajiv Gandhi and implemented through section 6A of the citizenship act. This particular section does not apply to the rest of the country. And surely steps will be taken to ensure that the mistakes that happened during Assam NRC will not be repeated all over India.

The most sinister rumor being spread is that whenever the NRC happens it will disproportionately take away the citizenship of Muslims. The argument is that Hindus who cannot prove citizenship will be provided citizenship through CAA and no such facility will be available to Muslims who will be thrown into detention camps. First of all the documents required for Assam NRC were prescribed by the Supreme Court and to satisfy the 1971 cut-off date in Section 6A of citizenship act. It is almost entirely unlikely that the same will be the case for the all India NRC. Considering the kind of trouble people had to go through in Assam, the list will surely be different.

Second, the latest amendment to citizenship act does not provide a blanket protection to Hindus as it is being made out. It is limited to those from 3 specified countries who were already in India before the specified date. Think about it for a minute. Is it really possible that a vastly higher number of Muslims will not be able to provide the required documents than Hindus. In fact after the Assam NRC, the majority of people who were identified as illegal migrants were actually Hindus and not Muslims. The same will happen all over India also. If BJP is a Hindutva party as it is being propagated, do you really think they will let that happen.

Even if you don’t want to buy into anything that I am saying, or Modi and Amit Shah have said, it is as clear as it can be that the CAA does not harm anyone in anyway what so ever. The objection, if necessary, should be only to the all India NRC. That too after knowing the details of its mechanism. Unless of course you hate Hindus so much that you can’t even stand the prospect of a few of them being given protection from  persecution. That these two issues are being clubbed together to protest makes it clear that the real agenda is something else.

What is happening now has it’s roots in what happened in May 2019. When Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014, it was a huge shock to the left-liberal establishment in the country. They just couldn’t digest that someone from outside the establishment, from a poor, backward caste background was able to defy their defamation campaign and succeed. This had not happened before. For some 60 years since Independence the establishment dictated who rules the country. But for the first time, India’s voters had defied them. They thought this was a fluke and Modi would be a one term PM. Throughout Modi’s 1st term they worked hard like never before to ensure that. From hyping up random fights for train seats into muslims-under-attack, to turning a window glass broken by a cricket ball into churches-under-attack, to glorifying terrorists like Afzal Guru and Bharat ke tukde gang of JNU, to painting farmers protecting their cattle from smugglers into some sort of Gau Rakshak mob; every dirty trick in their play book was used. But the Indian voter just didn’t care for their hate propaganda. Modi was elected back with an even larger majority. This was like a slap on their face. So they are now doubling down on their efforts to sow further hate and division in the society.

Second, not only did Modi get elected defying the establishment, but also put an end to their freeloading at the expense of Indian taxpayers. Journalists no more got free foreign trips and 5-star treatment when PM visited abroad. Businessmen were not able to get unguaranteed loans through phone banking. IAS babus were not able to withhold permissions to projects for bribes. Cultural leaders, famous artists and activists were forced to vacate the lavish bungalows they were enjoying rent-free for many years. They didn’t get taxpayer money for their adventures. So, now the establishment is striking back with a vengeance.

Third, the repeal of Article 370. For 70 years, the leftist and Islamists had set up a dream state, their dream state, in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. A state where Hindus could be treated as 2nd class citizens, denied equal rights and access to jobs and educational opportunities. Where women could be denied equal right to property and legal protection. Where homosexuals can be denied a life of dignity. Where Dalits and backward caste Hindus can be denied their right to reservations.  Where government is run by entitled dynasties. This was their dreamland for 70 years. And how dare Modi enforce equality and constitution. Then came the biggest shock of them all, the Ayodhya verdict giving land to Hindus.

So what we are seeing now is the Congressi, left-liberal establishment’s reaction to the loss of power and ability to dictate how this country should be run. These protests and riots have nothing to do with CAA or NRC or NRP. It doesn’t even have anything to do with Modi or Amit Shah. Their revenge is towards us, the Indian voters. For defying them, for taking away their power. Now the ball is in our court. Are we going to take this lying down. Are  we going to let these leftist elites to take the country back to the days of corruption, scams, freeloading, phone banking and organized Hinduphobia? Or are we going to assert our right as citizen’s of this democracy to decide how the country should be run.

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