CAA: Protection of Persecuted Minorities

Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019, was introduced so as to amend certain provisions of Indian Citizenship Act 1955, with respect to minorities (including Hindu, Jews, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Parsi) of our neighbouring states such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are victims of religious apartheid and persecution. Non- Muslims of Islamic states such as our neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have been continuous sufferer of conversion through coercion, torture, humiliation, rape, constriction from practicing their religious faith etc. The plight of non- Muslims in the Islamic states such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is not concealed from the world as Bangladesh’s census carried out in 2011 revealed that the share of non-Muslim has gone below 10 percent of the country’s overall population as in 2011, non-Muslims comprised 9.60% per-cent of the Bangladesh’s population. Thus, in-between 1951 and 2011, the population of non-Muslim shrunk from a high of 23.20 percent to a low 9.40 percent[1]. Persecution has been embodied within the societal structure affecting the minorities who have been subject of despotic laws and rule of tyranny. But reports have revealed that vacuum in the government over US-Taliban peace talk have put those gains at risk, especially the minorities who have already been bloodied by persistent attacks from Taliban insurgents and Islamic State suicide bombers.

In Pakistan provinces, Sindh and Baluchistan, well-to-do Hindus have been the primary target of religious persecution. The number of minorities subject to these pre-determined attacks have increased significantly and the crimes committed have become more heinous. Without overlooking Pakistan’s infamous “Blasphemy Law” which has been instrumental in targeting religious minorities on a regular basis which takes us to the infamous case of Asia Bibi who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and later in 2018 was acquitted due to inadequate evidence against her by the Supreme Court of Pakistan[2]. This law has been widely exploited and invoked against people of various religious minorities to settle personal vendettas against one another and hence Asia Bibi’s saga was apparently one such example. As tragic and traumatic her case may be, she still was fortunate to have survived and got her justice whereas there are several persecuted for religious reasons and have faced consequences of death, burning alive, raped, forcibly converted and the ordeal goes on. Religious extremism and fanaticism backed by the States have disenfranchise their own minority population endangering their well- being and lives.

Therefore, Indian government decided to amend the citizenship act in order to ease the process of acquiring citizenship to the listed persecuted population of the neighbouring countries. As many of these people are living in India as illegal immigrant meaning still living on the edge of a needle, it will be suited for them to become a citizen of India and live freely in the state.


Decoding the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019

To understand CAA 2019, we shall understand the meanings of “persecution” and “immigrant”. Persecution means hostility and ill- treatment especially because of race or political religious beliefs, oppression etc., whereas immigrant means person leaving his/her own country to live in a foreign country permanently. The matters of citizenship have been dealt in the Indian Constitution, which basically gives the rights of acquiring citizenship to people before or in 1950 whereas the Indian Citizenship Act 1955 deals with the acquiring of citizenship after 1950 with several amendments done in the later so as to make the law as concrete as possible. With the advent of CAA, the law will be well suited in terms of giving homes to people who were homeless, giving rights to people who were living as illegal migrant and preserving their human rights altogether. As those who survived the forcible conversion escaped and illegally entered India. They were Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis and they were categorised as illegal migrants. According to the data of 2014, they numbered 31,313 with Hindus (25,447), Sikhs (5807), Buddhists (2), Christians (55) and Parsis (2). No Muslims or Jews came to India over the last 70 years on grounds of religious persecution[3]. Therefore, the bill amends the principle act by inserting the following proviso in section 2, sub- section (1), in clause (b) stating that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act. Along with that the number of years for these aforesaid religious groups for acquiring citizenship under naturalisation has been reduced to 5 years instead of 11 years mentioned in the principle act. Hence reducing their pain as an illegal immigrant has to go through several complications in respect of education, job and rights. As an illegal migrant cannot get education or provide the same to their children, for that they have to wait for 11 years for acquiring citizenship through naturalization, similarly in other areas or fields of work they are deprived from practicing because of their identity.


Controversies attaching the Act

The citizenship bill was passed amidst opposition outcry and cleared Rajya Sabha test after a six-hour marathon debate. The act is opposed almost in every part of the country and the contentions in regard of the same are as follows:

  1. The said act is ultra vires as it is in violation of article 5 to 11 and 14: Article 11 of the Indian Constitution confers the right to the parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law. Nothing in the foregoing provisions of Article 5-10 shall derogate from the power to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to citizenship. As for article 14 which gives citizens as well as foreigners the “equality before law”, the supreme court in several judgements has held that equals to be treated equally and unequal should be treated unequally[4]. Hence, the government by giving rights to the non- Muslims rather than the Muslims from the Islamic states has not in any way infringed or violated art 14.

  2. The said act is discriminatory against the Muslims and violates human rights: As a foreigner can become a citizen of India under the Citizenship Act, 1955, As there are five ways a foreigner can acquire the citizenship of India under the Citizenship Act, 1955 namely, by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation, and incorporation of territory. The CAA 2019 adds a country-specific exception to the naturalisation section. However, any Muslim can become an Indian citizen under the naturalisation section. Ministry of Home Affairs have expounded that more than 4000 Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have been give Indian citizenship in past 6-years[5] Hence it only gives a platform to the persecuted non-Muslims who have been a subject of severe and heinous persecution due to religious disparities.

  3. Is it violating The Assam Accord?: The bill expediently complies with Accord of Assam via expounding an exemption to the tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura and inner line demarcation as notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. S. 6B is inserted as special provisions to devise the compilation of citizenship act with the special provisions being conferred to north-east state under art. 371B & art. 371C of Indian constitution.

Conclusion

The government with bona-fide intention has taken steps in order to protect the citizens of its neighbouring states to safeguard their rights and give them save environment to flourish and profess a religion by-choice. Antithetically to the previous governments, this government is not only demarcating itself to criticize the persecution of religious minorities across the border but have taken stringent and necessary steps to protect them perhaps exhibiting an idea of India as motherland. Overall, the protest against the said act is a premature denouncement.

[1] Mukesh Rawat, No, Pakistan’s non-Muslim population didn’t decline from 23% to 3.7% as BJP claims, India Today (Dec. 25, 2019, 10:49 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pakistan-bangladesh-non-muslim-population-citizenship-amendment-bill-bjp-1627678-2019-12-12

[2] Salman Masood and Mike Ives, Asia Bibi, Christian Cleared of Blasphemy Charges, Leaves Pakistan for Canada, The New York Times ( Dec. 25, 2019, 11:02 PM), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/08/world/asia/asia-bibi-blasphemy-pakistan-canada.html

[3] Rahul Tripathi, Citizenship Amendment Act 2019: What it holds for India, Economic Times ( Dec. 25, 2019 11:35 PM), https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/citizenship-amendment-bill-decoded-what-it-holds-for-india/articleshow/72466056.cms?from=mdr

[4] St. Stephen's College v. University of Delhi [(1992)1 SCC 559]

[5] The Press Trust of India, Muslims among 4,000 granted citizenship in last 6 years: Home Ministry, Business Standard (Dec. 25, 2019 11:29 PM)


Submitted by,

Shambhavi Singh & Kumar Aditya,

B.A.LL.B.,

Guru Gobind Singh (IP) University.


(Image used for representational purpose only.)

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