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Citizenship Amendment bill and its challenges

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The majority will and rule are often considered to be the foundation for a democratic country. Throughout the history of democracy, majority decision have been proved right. But there are several problems when we depend on majority rule. One among top issues, is that simple majority of communities and societies make all the decisions. This gives way that little or small 

benefits to the majority community outweigh big losses to the minority. Even if the policy is considered dangerous or useless, the net benefits are enjoyed by majority is large in number. As a result, rules and policy of majority is inefficient. The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) is one such policy.

What does the bill propose ?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill offers to grant citizenship to the non-Muslims Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis -- from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who arrived in India before December 31, 2014. In other words, the CAB paves way for Indian citizenship to lakhs of immigrants, who identify themselves with any of the given religions, even if they cannot prove their residency.  It has amended The Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India. In other words, the Bill intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.It also means that any immigrant who does not belong to the said communities would not be eligible for Indian citizenship. Besides, according to the bill, any illegal immigrant from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who belongs to these said communities will not be deported or imprisoned if they are not carrying any valid documents for their residency in India.  Finally, the duration of the immigrants' residency was reduced from 11 years to 5 years.  

What are the exemptions in the Bill ?

The bill exempts certain areas of  North-East, OCI cardholders. It will would not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the area covered under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. This effectively means that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram along with almost whole of Meghalaya and parts of Assam and Tripura would stay out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. As per the citizenship bill, a foreigner 

may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin.

Political opposition

The Opposition parties of country severely criticised the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill by Parliament. The fundamental criticism of the Bill has been that it specifically targeted against the Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afganistan. They pointed out the bill has violated Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.  A top leader claimed that the passage of the bill, marks a dark day in the history of India and is a victory of dangerous forces over the country's democracy. A former minister tweeted that "No one in the government would take responsibility for the content of the CAB or its constitutionality. The intent of the Bill is to tell the Muslims 'you are not equal human beings with equal rights'. A top politician also said that the Bill was contrary to the principles of secularism and other rights incorporated in the Constitution. A top leader from Bengal too termed the Bill as unconstitutional and warned of people's movement against the Bill. He also said it would be challenged in the Supreme Court. He said the present bill has been drawn from "Nazi Coffee Book" and is part of Hindutva agenda. Several political leaders indicated that they may move the Supreme Court against the citizenship bill with a top legal luminary mentioning that the 

legislation will be legally challenged in the near future as it is "highly suspect" in terms of constitutionality. However, some people are arguing that this amendment is a violation of Article 

14 of the Constitution as it opposes discrimination with anyone based only on caste, religion, sex, and place.

Replies from the government

The Union government maintains that the Bill aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries for several decades. BJP 

leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have spoken of this Bill as righting the wrongs of history by granting refuge to the sons and daughters of India  who were left stranded by 

Partition. Home Minister Amit Shah said Muslims from other countries have the right to apply for Indian citizenship as per existing rules. As many as 566 Muslims have been given citizenship. 

Conclusion:

This majoritarian rule and notion of religion-based citizenship is not accepted by the majority of people in India. The people who supported CAB and its argument should understand that the bill has potential changed the idea of equality and inclusive citizenship promised several sections in the Indian Constitution. 







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