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GOI Announces Implementation Citizenship Amendment Act

GOI Announces Implementation Citizenship Amendment Act

The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has announced the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on 11, March 2024, bringing the law back into the spotlight. The CAA aims to provide a pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted minority communities from neighbouring countries, but it has faced criticism and protests over the exclusion of Muslims.

Background and Purpose of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed by the Central Government in Parliament in 2019. Its purpose is to grant Indian citizenship to refugees belonging to six non-Muslim communities (Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsis) who have fled religious persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

The CAA was an integral part of the BJP’s manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had previously stated that the law would be implemented before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections this year.

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Eligibility Criteria and Process

According to the government’s clarification, the CAA does not automatically grant citizenship to anyone. Instead, it modifies the category of people who can apply for citizenship by exempting the applicants from the definition of “illegal migrant” under specific conditions:

  1. The applicant must belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian community and hail from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan.
  2. They must have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, due to fear of religious persecution in their home country.
  3. They will need to prove that they have lived in India for five years or more.
  4. They must demonstrate that they have fled their countries due to religious persecution.
  5. They must speak languages from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and fulfill the requirements of the Third Schedule of the Civil Code 1955.

After meeting these criteria, the applicants will be eligible to apply for Indian citizenship, but the final decision will rest with the Government of India.

Addressing Concerns and Clarifications of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)

The government has addressed several concerns and questions raised when the CAA was initially introduced:

  1. Muslim Refugees: The CAA does not cover Muslim refugees, as the government’s position is that when the situation becomes safe for them, they can and should return to their homes. However, Muslim refugees will continue to be protected under India’s ad-hoc refugee policy, under which long-term stay visas are issued to them.
  2. Non-Inclusion Policy: India’s policy has historically been non-inclusive towards certain groups of refugees, particularly those from countries that are constitutionally Islamic nations. The government argues that it makes sense to provide amnesty for non-Muslim refugees who face atrocities and constitutional problems in neighboring countries.
  3. Rohingya Issue: Regarding the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar (Burma), the government states that they have been living in India since the British colonial era when Burma was part of undivided India. Granting Rohingya the right to be naturalized in India could upset Burma, as they are not recognized as an ethnic group there. Therefore, while Rohingya have been granted refugee protection and long-term visas in India, they will not be eligible for citizenship under the CAA.
  4. Temporary Persecution: The government clarifies that refugees whose persecution is not permanent may be sent back to their home countries when the situation improves. However, if conditions do not improve for refugees over an extended period, additional ad-hoc constitutional legislation may be considered to increase their protection.

The Citizenship Amendment Act has been a contentious issue, with critics arguing that it discriminates against Muslims and undermines India’s secular principles. However, the government maintains that the law is not against Muslims but rather aims to provide a legal pathway for persecuted minority communities from neighbouring countries to acquire Indian citizenship while following a non-inclusion policy for certain groups based on the nature and permanence of their persecution.

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