Citizenship Amendment Act: Myth vs Fact

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On the eve of partition of India, it was hoped that the minority citizens of India and of the neighboring countries will have civil rights and a life of dignity. It included their rights to religion and tradition. However, in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh, the rights of minorities were not protected. The historic Nehru-Liaquat pact also known as Delhi agreement was signed by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on 8th April, 1950. It stated that the members of the minority community would be given the same opportunity to participate in the public life, get positioned in political or other offices and to serve in the civil and armed forces of their country. Delhi agreement stated that they would be free to follow their religious practices. India kept its promise, but our neighbors failed to keep their promises. In neighboring countries population of minorities has declined from 22 to 07%. Whereas, the population of Indian minorities has increased from 23 to 30%. This highlights the debilitating condition of non- Muslim minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Whereas, in India, important constitutional posts like President, Vice President, CEC, and CJI have been held by people from Muslim community. But, the three neighbouring countries failed to respect the rights of their minority communities. Hence, there arose the need for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are nations having Islamic credentials abutting India. Article 2 of the Afghan constitution makes it an Islamic state. Similarly, Bangladeshi and Pakistani constitutions also declare the same. The borders of India-Pakistan covers 3,323 kilometers, the border of India-Bangladesh covers 4,096 kilometers and the border of India-Afghanistan is 106 kilometers. The legal explanation of all three countries, which are adjacent to our geographical border, may be different but they are Islamic states in a way. Torture on Muslims inhabiting in any form of Islamic state/republic cannot be expected to take place on any religious lines. However, the same cannot be said about the non-Muslim minorities of that state. The Act is brought to address the problem of religious minorities of these three countries adjacent to the land border of India. CAA is undoing the religious harassment committed in all of these countries by giving these religious minorities, citizenship by ignoring all of their past documents.

The data shows that for the 5-year period ending in 2019, greater than 560 Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have come into India. Hence, it cannot be said that Indian law discriminates on the ground of religion. Moreover, the Citizenship Amendment Act had gone through standing committee, joint committee, etc., thereby respecting the democratic parliamentary process. In the past as well, India’s sovereign decision to grant citizenship to Ugandan and Sri Lankan refugees did not raise any question on religious lines, nor were any questions raised in 1971, when Bangladeshi refugees were given citizenship. Such questions should not be raised now on such humanitarian actions being codified by the CAA. There is a misconception that this Act is against minorities, specifically the Muslim community. However, there should not be question of concern for Muslims of this country, because they are
citizens and shall remain so; no one can harass them. The CAA answers a pertinent questions in negative that is, “Should citizenship be granted by India to any illegal Muslim migrant from anywhere in the world?” The CAA is for those specific classes, who do not have conducive atmosphere for their religions and are being persecuted in the three countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The CAA embodies the spirit of the Indian Constitution. Hence, there is no need for Indian Muslims to harbor fear. This Act does not cause any harm to any minority, especially Muslim brothers and sisters, because this law only gives citizenship to some foreigners, it does not snatch citizenship from any Indian. There is no question of deprivation of anyone’s citizenship. It is the issue of giving citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis who have come from their respective countries after facing harassment.

Under the Act, Section 2(1) (b) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 which provides for the migrants who come to India without passports, visas and travel documents, or whose passports and visas have expired, are considered illegal migrants, is being amended. Now, 06 categories, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians, who come from the three countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, will not be considered illegal migrants. A new section 6 (b) of the Citizenship Act proposes that if the victims of religious persecution register themselves by adopting the specified conditions, they will be able to obtain citizenship of India. Moreover, if such migrants obtain citizenship after fulfilling the conditions of Section 5 or Third schedule of the Citizenship Act 1955, then they would be given citizenship from the date on which they arrived in India. Many refugees have come before 31 December of 2014, all of them will get citizenship from the date they have come.

-Mansoor Khan National President, Sufi Islamic Board

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