The winter session of the Indian Parliament marked the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) into the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The highly controversial legislation has stirred a lot of agitation across the country, especially in the North-East, Kerala, Delhi, and West Bengal.
What Is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, is an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955.
According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an individual who has applied for Indian citizenship should have resided in India for a minimum of 11 years. The amended act grants relaxation in these norms to offer citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis who are immigrating from India’s Muslim-dominated neighbours, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Now, those eligible under the CAA will only have to reside in India for six years and will be given fast-track citizenship. Furthermore, these beneficiaries who have arrived in India before 31st December 2014 can stand a chance to gain Indian citizenship even if they do not possess the requisite documents. Finally, those not in possession of the requisite documents are not at the danger of being deported.
Why the Protests?
The protests against the CAA are primarily due to two reasons.
In the North-East, the protest is in defiance of the act as its implementation will result in the influx of immigrants, which will disrupt the demographic and linguistic uniqueness. However, it has been made clear that CAA will not be applicable to areas that come under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. These include the autonomously tribal-dominated areas of Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya.
On the other hand, protestors in the rest of India are agitating against the Act, alleging that the exclusion of Muslims is against India’s secular ethos. They believe that the introduction of the Act is in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
Facts vs. Fiction
According to the Central Government, the benefit of CAA has been offered only to a certain segment of the population as they are minority groups that are seeking refuge in India to escape religious persecution in the three countries. However, the CAA does not protect all religious minorities as the Ahmedia Muslims in Pakistan, Rohingya Muslims and Hindus in Myanmar, and Hindus and Christian Tamils in Sri Lanka are excluded from the purview of this Act. The Centre also believes that the act would not have been necessary had the Congress not agreed to the partition of India. However, while Pakistan was created on the basis of religion, India was committed to remaining a secular state. Further, Afghanistan has no role to play in the partition of India and is yet covered under CAA.
Updates on Protests So Far
Southeast Delhi was turned into a battlefield as police and student protestors clashed at Jamia Milia University. Jamia Islamia students claimed that some local elements disrupted their peaceful protest and resorted to violence and arson.
A Delhi Fire Services (DFS) personnel said that four fire tenders were rushed to douse the fire. Four DTC buses were torched, and many other vehicles were vandalized in New Friend’s Colony. Two fire officials and a cop were injured due to stone-pelting.
— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) December 18, 2019
Saimoon Farooqui, National Secretary of NSUI, said that the protest was happening peacefully and the protestors were sitting on the Mathura Road when the cops attempted trouble a few protestors, who resisted as a result. After that, the police used tear gas shells and baton-charged the protestors.
More than 200 people gathered at the Mumbai University in Kalina near Santa Cruz to raise slogans of Azaadi against the CAA. The rally was also carried out to condemn the high-handed violence meted out against students of Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, and Guwahati University.
Protests have also erupted outside IIM-Ahmedabad and Central University of Kerala, with students being detained and arrested.