The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) passed by both houses of Parliament in the winter session is now known as the Citizenship Act. The Act has triggered violent protests across several parts of the country, with the national capital being one of the worst-hit after protestors set ablaze four public buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with the cops near Jamia Millia Islamia on Sunday.
The police detained around 50 Jamia students alleging they were involved in the violence which left nearly 60 injured. While the students were released early today after the Varsity union denied their involvement, tension prevailed in the national capital.
Meanwhile, protests continued in the northeast region as well with
Assamese artistes coming together to take a stand against the Citizenship Act. What is the Citizenship Act?
The Act seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
A person belonging to any of these faiths from the three nations can apply for Indian citizenship after six years of residence in the country, without having to prove his/her birth.
It covers people who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion..”. The Act aims to protect these people from proceedings against them in the claim of illegal migration.
People who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, are eligible of citizenship, as per the proposed changes while the previous law had made it mandatory for people to have resided for a minimum of 11 years in the country to be eligible for citizenship.
Why is it controversial?
The primary opposition is that it makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion, which critics say violates the spirit of equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
The Act has also faced opposition and reservation from many political outfits, including NDA alliance partners over concerns that granting citizenship to foreigners will undermine the ethnic communities living in regions.
Minority outfits have lashed out against it for leaving out Muslims and also on the ground that it is at odds with the Constitution, which does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of religion.
How is it different from NRC?
The National Register of Citizens, the process of which has been recently completed in Assam, looks to remove illegal immigrants from India.
According to NRC, a person, to be eligible to be a citizen, would have to prove that either they or their ancestors were in India on or before March 24, 1971, the eve of the Bangladesh War. The war of liberation had begun in Bangladesh the next day, which sent thousands of refugees to India.
The Centre would be extending the NRC process to the rest of India. The NRC has nothing to do with religion, whereas, the Citizenship Act is based on some faiths.
Why Assam is seeing massive protests?
Some groups in the state feel that Act could nullify the 1985 Assam Accord, which had set March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of illegal refugees.
While the NRC was aimed at deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of their religions, the Citizenship Act is likely to benefit non-Muslim migrants, according to some activists.
In Assam, the protesters were seen targeting lawmakers wherever they find them. Last week, anti-Bill protesters showed black flags to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Guwahati and Kaliabor in Central Assam as his convoy passed through.
In Assam’s Golaghat district, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) president and state Agriculture Minister Atul Bora got stranded as protesters gheraoed his private residence there. Several other leaders including ministers, MPs and MLAs had to face the wrath of angry protesters.
Will the Citizenship Act impact NRC?
The BJP has claimed that the Act will assist those left out of the final NRC. However, experts say that Gorkhas, Scheduled Tribes, Bhojpuri, Koch Rajbongshi, Tea Tribes cannot claim to have migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
(Inputs from agencies)