CAA (THE CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT 2019) AND NRC
This article is written by Rashmi Kumari, a 4th-year student at Army Institute Of law Mohali.
Citizenship is the relationship between an individual and the state to which the individual owes his allegiance to and in turn, becomes entitled to its protection. Citizens have certain rights, duties, and responsibilities that are denied or only partially extended to aliens and other noncitizens residing in a country.
The paper begins with discussing citizenship under the constitution of India and the citizenship act 1955 and then moves on to thoroughly discussing the CAA, along with the various arguments about it made by famous jurists like Subramanian Swamy, Harish Salve, and many others and views of the prominent news portals and channels of the country.
After dealing with the question of its constitutionality and legality the author also deals in detail with its historical precedent i.e. the Liaquat Nehru pact and partition of the country based on religion and as to why certain countries and communities were left out. The paper ends with problems that Assam faced during its NRC and how it can be so difficult to implement a pan India NRC. The author has presented all the points in favor of and against the act and has done a considerable amount of research to break false assumptions and misinformation.
It is perhaps one of the most controversial events in independent India’s political history. The protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 spread like fire to almost every state of the country, though the objectives behind the protest differed with the geography.
Some protested because they believed that CAA allegedly violates the secular identity of the country while others feared that it will endanger their linguistic and cultural identity, Yet others believed that while the CAA itself is an innocuous act, combined with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), which was into controversies in Assam, it will become a tool to exclude the Muslims. So what is CAA and what will be its implications and, why was the country against the NRC, How is it connected to the CAA?
Besides answering such questions the research paper also seeks to discuss each aspect and questions connected with the CAA. Sixty-five writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the legal and constitutional validity of the act. Article 14 says that all persons are entitled to equality, but there have been several Supreme Court judgments that say that reasonable classification can be applied as an exception to this principle of equality, all fundamental rights are subject to reasonable classification.
Anyone can challenge the act in the apex court and the future of the act will depend on whether the Supreme Court accepts the classification made by the government within this act is reasonable enough or not.
CITIZENSHIP IN THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION AND THE CITIZENSHIP ACT 1955
Part II of the Indian Constitution (Articles 5-11) deals with the Citizenship of India. Article 11 gives power to the Parliament of India to regulate and manage the right of citizenship of a person by law. These provisions of the Constitution led to the enactment of The Citizenship Act 1955 by the Indian Parliament which came into force on 30 December 1955.
The citizenship act 1955 is an act that provides for the acquisition and termination of Indian Citizenship. The legislation related to this matter named the Citizenship Act 1955, has been by the parliament in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, and the latest in 2019. Indian Citizenship can be acquired under the following 5 ways: Citizenship at the commencement of the constitution, by birth, by descent, by registration, and by naturalization. And can be terminated in the following three ways – Renunciation, Termination, and Deprivation.
Persons domiciled within the territory of India as of 26 November 1949 automatically became Indian citizens by the virtue of the relevant provisions of the Indian Constitution at the time of its commencement.
Any person born in India on or after 26 January 1950, but before the amendment act of 1986 i.e. on 1 July 1987, is a citizen of India by birth. A person born in India on or after 1 July 1987 is a citizen of India if either of his parents were a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
Those born in India on or after 3 December 2004 are considered citizens of India as long as both of their parents are citizens of India or if one parent is a citizen of India and also the other isn’t an illegal migrant at the time of their birth. Indian nationality law follows the concept of jus sanguinis (citizenship by right of blood) and not the concept of jus soli (citizenship by right of birth within the territory).
Article 9 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country is no longer an Indian citizen. Also, according to The Passports Act, a person has to surrender his Indian passport on the acquisition of citizenship of another country by an Indian; it is a punishable offense under the act if he fails to surrender the passport. India does not recognize dual citizenship.
Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) Card: A PIO card applicant could be a person of Indian origin but is a citizen of some other country(other than Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, China, and Nepal); or a person who has held an Indian passport at any time or is the spouse of an Indian citizen or a person of Indian origin;
Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card: OCI Card is for foreign nationals who were eligible to become a citizen of India on 26.01.1950 or was a citizen of India on or after that date. Applications from citizens of Bangladesh and Pakistan aren’t allowed. The President of India is termed the first Citizen of the country.
THE CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT 2019 (CAA)
“In the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), in section 2, in sub-section (1), in clause (b), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—
“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as an illegal migrant for this Act;”.
So this part of the CAA made it such that “any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December 2014” would not be classified as an illegal immigrant (alongside the condition that they meet some additional basic criteria).
The CAA goes onto mention that: “Nothing in this section shall apply to the tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873”.The CAA also reduces the period of residence required for naturalization from eleven years to five years:
“In the Third Schedule to the principal Act, in clause (d), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—’Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of residence or service of Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as “not less than five years” in place of “not less than eleven years”
Hence if a person belongs to the aforementioned communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan, they are granted fast-track citizenship and they will cease to be illegal immigrants defined in clause (b) of section 2 of the Citizenship Act 1955.
read- Punjab: In A Phase of Burgeon or Banjax?
CAA AND THE RIGHT TO EQUALITY
Reasonable Classification under Article 14– “Article 14- the state shall not deny any person equality of law or equal protection of law within the territory of India.” Article 14 permits classification but prohibits class legislation. The equal protection of laws guaranteed by article 14 doesn’t mean every law must be general in character. It doesn’t mean that the very same laws should apply to everyone.
The varying needs of various classes of persons often require separate treatment. From the very nature of society, there should be different laws in different places and the legitimate controls the policy and enacts laws in the best interests of the safety and security of the state. Identical treatment in unequal circumstances would amount to inequality.
So logical classification is merely not permitted but is very important if society has to progress. The classification must however not be arbitrary, artificial, or evasive but must be supported by some real and substantial bearing just and reasonable respect to the object sought to be achieved by the legislation article 14 applies where equals are treated differently with no reasonable basis. But where equals and unequal are treated differently, Article 14 doesn’t apply.
Class legislation is that which makes improper discrimination by conferring particular privileges upon a category of persons arbitrarily selected from an outsized number of persons all of whom stand in equal stature to the privilege granted between whom and therefore the persons not so favored no reasonable distinction or substantial difference are often found justifying the inclusion of one and exclusion of the other from such privilege. In the case of Indira Sahney v. Union of India 1993 SC, it was held that Article 14 has to be understood in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy.
Test of reasonable classification: Classification must not be arbitrary, artificial, or evasive. It should always rest upon some real and substantial distinction bearing just and reasonable respect to the object sought to be achieved by the legislation. Classification to be reasonable must fulfil the subsequent two conditions: The classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or thing that are grouped from others left out of the group
The differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the act. The differentia which is the basis of classification and the object of the act are two distinct things. What is necessary is that there must be nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the act which makes the classification. It is only where there is no reasonable basis for a classification that legislation making such classification may be declared discriminatory.
The true meaning and scope of Article 14 have been explained in several cases by the Supreme Court. Given this, the propositions laid down in Ramkrishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar AIR 1958 still hold good governance a valid classification and are as follows.
- A law may be constitutional even though it relates to a single individual if, on account of some special circumstances or reasons applicable to him and not applicable to others, that single individual could be treated as a class by itself.
- There is always a presumption in favor of the constitutionality of a statute and the burden is upon him who attacks it to show that there has been a clear transgression of constitutional principles.
- It must be assumed that the legislature correctly understands and appreciates the need of its people that its laws are directed to the problem made manifest by experience and that its discrimination are based on adequate grounds
- To sustain the presumption of constitutionality the court may take into consideration matters of common knowledge, matters of the report, the history of the times and may assume every state of facts which can be conceived existing at the time of the legislation.
- Equality before the law does not require mathematical equality of all persons in all circumstances. Equal treatment does not mean identical treatment.
If the classification satisfies the test laid down in the above propositions, the law will be declared constitutional. The question of whether a classification is reasonable and proper must however not be judged more on commonsense than on legal substance. The doctrine of classification was thoroughly discussed in various other cases besides the one quoted such as Chiranjilal v. Union of India 1951 SC, the State of Bengal v. Anwar Ali 1951 SC, Balaji v. State of Mysore 1963 SC , and have been reiterated in recent judgments like K. Thimmappa v. Chairman, Central Board of Directors, SBI 2001 SC, N. John Vallmattom v. Union of India 2003 SC and Javed v. State of Haryana 2003 SC.
- The Liaquat-Nehru Pact .supreme court lawyer J. Sai Deepak said and I quote “One of the most important documents one needs to look into for this Act is the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950. Both these countries had specifically assured each other that the religious minorities of these countries would be taken care of and their rights would be protected.
- The premise of this particular pact is what is known as the Critical Hostage Theory, which is to say that religious minorities in both these countries shall act as hostages to the other country to ensure that their religious minorities are protected.
- So for instance, if Muslims in India are to be protected and treated at par with other citizens, then Pakistan wanted to retain a set of non-Muslims in Pakistan so that it is in a position to bargain for the safe treatment and equal treatment for Muslims in India. And therefore, vice versa, this is the premise of this entire Act.” India has honored its half of the pact.
- During this period, the population of Muslims in India has increased from under 10% to above 14%. But in Pakistan & Bangladesh, one of the biggest ethnic cleansings of the past century has occurred with 60 million fewer minorities than there should have existed today.
- Historical Links with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh “These three countries have had significant Indic populations coupled with non-Muslim populations and there has always been this question whether India has a duty towards those populations which suffer from persecution, specifically religious persecution. As far as undivided India is concerned prior to the partition of the country, these were all part of the same subcontinent; they were all a part of same undivided India.
- Therefore, India has a specific constitutional as well as civilizational to these persecuted minorities and it is a fact that prior to 1971, the population of non-Muslims in undivided Pakistan was 23% which fell to 3% in Pakistan and 20% in Bangladesh post the partition and subsequently, that number has only dwindled. So when the argument is being made that from 1.6%, it has increased to 1.85% – that is the population of Hindus in Pakistan – they forget that it has fallen from 3% to 1.85%. Similarly, as far as Bangladesh is concerned, from 20% it has to 10.7% if my memory serves me right.”
- Congress Leaders Have Expressed Their Desires For Such A Bill Multiple Times The first authority to express concern over this state of affairs was the Working Committee of the United Congress Party. The Committee adopted a resolution on November 25, 1947, urging citizenship and “full protection to each and every non-Muslims from Pakistan who had come over to India or may do so in the near future to save their life and honor.
- An affirmation of this view came from Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, on December 18, 2003 “After the Partition of our country, minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution, and it is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people — these unfortunate people — to seek refuge in our country, our approach for granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal.” The same view was put forward in writing in 2014 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the then Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi.”
The Lautenberg Amendment (1990) and Specter Amendment (2004) are just two examples of positive discrimination based on religion in the country that is considered to be the forefront of global democracy – the United States.
- The Lautenberg Agreement was created by a former US Democrat senator, Frank Lautenberg after he witnessed antisemitism in the Soviet Union during a visit in 1990. Senator Lautenberg then created a provision that allowed Jews or Evangelical Christians residing in the Soviet Union to be granted refugee status.
- The amendment also calls on the Attorney General to “establish one or more categories of aliens who are or were nationals and residents of the Soviet Union and who share common characteristics that identify them as targets of persecution in the Soviet Union on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion and The Specter Amendment classified Iranian nationals based on religious minorities – religious minorities would need less evidence to prove refugee status. 
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WHY ONLY AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, AND BANGLADESH?
The Government, in the Statement of Objects and Reasons, said “It is a historical fact that trans-border migration of population has been happening continuously between the territories of India and the areas presently comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths were staying in the said areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh when India was partitioned in 1947.
The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day-to-day life where the right to practice, profess and propagate their religion has been obstructed and restricted.
Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents.” Given that Pakistan (and Bangladesh) separated from India, the government rationalized that India has an obligation towards those persecuted in countries that were a part of undivided India. However, Afghanistan was not actually a part of undivided India (keeping aside the concept of Akhand Bharat).
In the Report of the Joint Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by the sixteenth Lok Sabha, the government was asked about the inclusion of Afghanistan. In response, they argued that Afghan minority communities were of Indian origin:
“Besides, minority communities in Afghanistan had migrated to Afghanistan from the
Pakistan region during pre-independence India. They are facing continuous atrocities due to their Indian origin.”The government added that many attacks against minorities in Afghanistan are by Pakistani agents: “There have been multiple attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan by the Pakistan establishment sponsored LET, Haqqani Network and Taliban.”
Hence, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan were selected to protect those from undivided India. Amish, for the Hindustan Times, writes, “Minorities are disappearing fast in these three sub continental Muslim-majority Republics. According to the Pakistani scholar Farahnaz Ispahani, around 1947, minorities comprised 23% of the West & East Pakistan population.
This has now fallen to 3% in Pakistan (former West Pakistan), and a little over 9% in Bangladesh (former East Pakistan). The greatest fall occurred in 1971, when 3 million Bangladeshis, mostly Hindus, were massacred by the Pakistani army. Extrapolate the reduced percentage of minorities to the present population, and there are over 60 million missing Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.”
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WHY WERE OTHER COUNTRIES LEFT OUT?
What about Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar? Excluding Rohingya isn’t arbitrary. There are significant security concerns specific to the Rohingya community that do not apply to other Muslims and non-Muslim refugees in India. Last year, Amnesty revealed evidence corroborating the infamous 2017 brutal massacre of dozens of Hindus by Rohingyas in the village of Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik in Rakhine, Myanmar.
Their bodies were found in four mass graves. While it is menacingly prejudicial to suggest that Rohingya should be included in the act or given refugee status taking but considering their past actions in a country with a significant amount of Hindu population and will raise serious valid security concerns.
There have been multiple reports by intelligence agencies of exploitation of Rohingya extremism by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. In 2017 another incidence of a brutal massacre of 99 members of the Hindu Rohingya minority in Rakhine was carried out by a radical Rohingya Muslim group, as reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Also, there were reports of forced conversions of Hindu Rohingya in the Bangladesh refugee camps.
One mustn’t forget that India has the right and utmost duty to ensure the security of its own people first. Other than the security concerns, India also doesn’t want to be caught in the middle of an argument between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the Rohingya’s origin. This is the major reason why w even the Rohingya Hindus who are trapped between Muslim extremists and the Myanmar army is also not included in the CAA.”
Tamils from Buddhist Sri Lanka. Tamils from Sri Lanka were persecuted during a long-running civil war due to their internal conflicts, but this persecution was largely on an ethnolinguistic basis and not a religious one per se. Hence, Sri Lankan Tamils do not fall within the category of CAA-class.
Moreover, the vast majority of the Sri Lankan Tamils have been repatriated back to Sri Lanka and Indo-Sri Lankan diplomatic dialogues to repatriate other significant portions of the 100,000 or so of Sri Lankan Tamils currently living in Tamil Nadu are presently going on; granting mass citizenship to this group would jeopardize those negotiations and will clearly disregard the desire of 70–80% of those who are willing to return to their homeland, Sri Lanka.
Hazaras from Afghanistan. The Indian government could have reasonably argued that the Hazaras are technically an ethnic minority and not a religious one and that persecution against them is on an ethnic basis. The violence that the Hazaras are being subjected to by the Talibani extremist Muslim groups, which still remain the de facto controlling authority in one-third of Afghan territory, was somewhat due to their Shia religion and mostly due to their ethnicity.
The linkage of ethnic and religious components of their persecution by the Sunni-Pashtun Taliban means that Hazaras are often read as either belonging to or outside of the CAA-class.
Why were Ahmadis and Shias not included? This argument ties in with that of ‘positive discrimination, not exclusion’ as well as that of an easily verifiable class. The rationale is that providing citizenship is often a very daunting and laborious process (especially given the inefficiencies of such systems in India) and so providing an easily verifiable class greatly eases the process.
The premise is that since one’s religion is mentioned on many state documents, fast-track citizenship can be doled out quickly. This argument submits that if persecution had been the basis for granting fast-track citizenship, the process would have been far slower. The problem of the verifiable class is further exacerbated by the fact that many Ahmadis do not have proper identification, since obtaining the said identification involves having to disavow beliefs of the Ahmadi faith.
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No Muslims Sought Refuge in India on the Grounds of Religious Persecution
Subramanian Swamy said in an interview and I quote “Those who survived forcible conversion escaped and illegally entered India. They were Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Parsis and they were categorized as illegal migrants. As of December 31, 2014, and they numbered 31,313: Hindus (25,447), Sikhs (5807), Buddhists (2), Christians (55), and Parsis (2).
Those belonging to two religions were not on this list: Muslims and Jews. A small number of Jews migrated to Israel. No Muslims or Jews came to India over the last 70 years on grounds of religious persecution…Do we know of a single example of a Muslim citizen of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Bangladesh who entered India due to religious persecution and can be identified as an illegal migrant by the official agencies to qualify for citizenship under the CAA? The Union Home Ministry, in the list prepared of this category of illegal migrants, did not discover a single such Muslim from these three countries.”
Ahmadis and Shias voted for Pakistan and Greatly Helped in its Creation: Ahmadi leaders, specifically Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I and Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad greatly worked for the formation of Pakistan and encouraged Indian Muslims to vote for Partition. “Once again, the Ahmadiyya Community under the guidance of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II played an active role in the process leading to the establishment of Pakistan”. Aftab Ahmad Khan.
An Ahmadi group infamously knows as the Furqan force sided with and supported the Pakistani terrorists and acted against India for the liberation of the Indian territory of Kashmir.
“Sir Zafarullah Khan championed the Islamizing of Pakistan through its infamous Objectives Resolution of 1949. Ahmadis crossed over to do jihad in Kashmir, ignoring Mirza Ahmad’s wisdom. They raised a group of mujahideen there called Furqan Force to cleanse it of Hindu rule.”
NRC OF ASSAM
The indigenous people of Assam fear that the NRC will primarily benefit the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who have settled in large numbers across the state. The Assamese fear that if citizenship is granted to Bangla-speaking Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh, they will outnumber the Assamese-speaking people in the state.
They cite the example of Tripura, where Bengali-speaking Hindu migrants from Bangladesh now dominate all the political, social, and economic power, pushing the original tribal groups to the margins of uncertainty. Unlike the rest of the country, where people are questioning the exclusion of Muslims, the Assamese don’t want immigrants of any religion, whether Hindu or Muslim or any other category who has been granted citizenship via the CAA.
The first NRC in Assam was prepared in 1951, because of the widespread influx of massive, unchecked illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The first NRC included the particulars of all the people enumerated in that year’s census. The 1951 NRC found that nearly 15 lakh illegal immigrants that’s one-sixth of Assam’s population-lived in the state. Almost thirty years later, at the end of a six-year-long agitation and protests in Assam against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the Union government and politically affiliated student leaders of Assam signed the Assam Accord in 1985.
According to the accord, the 1951 NRC was promised to be updated and hence in pursuance to which residents of Assam were asked to provide certain documents showing their connection or relation by blood to those whose names were enrolled in the NRC of 1951. Since the Assam Accord permitted any illegal migrant entering the state before March 25, 1971, as a legal Indian, documents showing connection to anyone whose name featured in the voter lists between 1951 and 1971 were also accepted as proof of citizenship.
In Assam, the Supreme Court mandated and observed that it caused widespread disruption and agitation. In the state, one first had to present the documentary proof issued before March 24, 1971 (like the 1951 NRC or electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971) to prove that one’s ancestors were residents of India before that date. The next step was to produce documents for oneself to establishing one relationship with those ancestors.
All of this was a tough task in a country with a poor documentation culture and crores of people with meager financial resources and so much of population to count and register; it was a hectic job even for the state machinery.
The NRC update was a herculean exercise that required almost 52,000 state Government officials working for a very long period. Hundreds of NRC Seva Kendras (NSK) were set up to process the documents under the apex court’s watch.
An applicant had to pick any one of the documents under two heads — list A and list B. The 14 documents in List A included were: 1951 NRC, Electoral roll(s) up to 24 March (midnight), 1971, Land and tenancy records, Citizenship certificate, Permanent residential certificate, Refugee registration certificate, Any government-issued license/certificate, Government service/employment certificate, Bank or post office accounts, Birth certificate, State educational board or university educational certificate, Court records/processes, Passport, Any LIC policy.
Those who did not have any 1971 documents that mentioned their name and could show any one of the documents named in this list if it mentions their parents/grandparents along with one more document from List B to establish a connection. List B included: Birth certificate, Land document, Board/University certificate, Bank/LIC/post office records, Circle officer/gaon panchayat secretary certificate in case of married women, Electoral roll, Ration card, any other legally acceptable document.
For women married to other places, and with no documents to pick from list B to establish a family link, the state allowed a) Circle officer or gaon panchayat secretary certificate that need not be on or before the 1971 date and b) A ration card issued on or before the 1971 date. In Assam, those left out from the final NRC list had to approach the Foreigners’ Tribunals. Over 200 new FTs were set up across the state for this purpose. If a person was dissatisfied with the FT’s decision, he/she could appeal against it.
To accommodate illegal immigrants, detention camps were set up across the state. There are six detention centers in Assam’s Goalpara, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Silchar, Kokrajhar, and Tezpur, where district jails have been converted into deportation camps.
PAN INDIA NRC
The nationwide execution of the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) is next on Amit Shah‘s list. The Union home minister did not hesitate a bit while saying that the exercise will weed out all illegal infiltrators from India, a stance the BJP government had enumerated in its manifesto and has maintained ever since it has come to power for the second time in 2019. The Union home ministry under the Congress rule had framed the rules for a nationwide NRC back in 2003 itself, following an amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955.
These rules clearly state that the central government shall, for the purpose of the NRC, carry out a house-to-house data enumeration for the collection of certain specified documents relating to each family, its members, and all individuals residing in a local area.
So, unlike what many are claiming, people will not be asked to submit documents related to their grandparents to prove their relationship or connection to their grandparents like they had to do in Assam. Just like how people present their identity cards or any other document for registering their names in the voter list or getting an Aadhaar card, similar documents will need to be provided for the NRC. Any of the documents related to date and place of birth will be sufficient as proof of citizenship.
However, the decision on what documents will be acceptable to confirm a person’s citizenship is still pending. They are probably going to include voter ID cards, passports, the Aadhaar card, driving licenses, insurance papers, birth certificates, school-leaving certificates, documents relating to land or home, or other government-issued documents. If a person is illiterate and does not have the relevant documents, the authorities will allow them to bring a witness and other proofs such as community verification will also be allowed as corroborative evidence to prove their residence or nationality.
Is the NRC a process to exclude the Muslim community? “No! Even in Assam, out of the 1.9 million people excluded from the NRC, 1.3 million were Hindus and the rest from indigenous tribes, as unofficial sources confirm. That being the reason why the government has rejected the NRC in Assam. The 2003 guidelines for a nationwide NRC have no mention of any provision that can render an Indian legal citizen lose its citizenship, be it a Hindu or Muslim.
An honest NRC should have excluded illegal migrants of all religions but the CAA will surely benefit the illegal migrants of non-Muslim Community who have already been granted citizenship by the said act.
A successful NRC will depend on the intention of the government and a framework that is unblemished and flawless, which is a huge challenge for Amit Shah who explained the CAA-NRC-NPR chronology in his various speeches and interviews and I quote “first we will pass the Citizenship Amendment bill and ensure that all the refugees from the neighboring nations get the Indian citizenship. After that, NRC will be made and we will detect and deport every infiltrator from our motherland.”
On paper, there’s nothing wrong with counting the legal citizenry of the country. But if it becomes a basis for discrimination or put to other uses, then it’s certainly problematic. Besides, it’ll be a huge exercise given the dimensions of our population and other complexities. This was evident in Assam, where even genuine Indian citizens got excluded and lots of illegal migrants allegedly, got included. Before the government embarks on this exercise, it also must put in situ a policy on stateless people.
India doesn’t have one yet, and keeping illegal migrants in detention centers is one of the few things the country can ill afford. Also, CAA is an innocuous act but combined with NRC someone can easily smell the fishy way it is prone to be misused. Nevertheless, anyone who may feel dejected by the actions of the government officials during the NRC can always approach the judiciary to reinstate his/her right.
-Edited by Samarth Pathak
(Editor, The Legal State)
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