Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019: All You Need to Know

From why the bill is contested to what the earlier law was, here’s all you need to know about the Citizenship Act.

2 min read
All you need to know about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, explained.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 has led to protests on the streets and furore in the Parliament. The Act came into being on 11 December 2019, after being passed by a majority in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Here's what the law is all about.

1. What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was introduced in the form of a Bill in Lok Sabha on July 2016.

The Bill aimed to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants – six non-Muslim minorities – from three of India's neighbouring countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. These minorities are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled their countries due to "religious persecution".

2. What Was The Citizenship Law in India Before This?

The Citizenship Act, 1955 does not allow citizenship to any kind of illegal migrants. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act amends that and relaxes the earlier requirement of an applicant securing citizenship by naturalisation. Earlier, citizenship would be awarded to someone living in India for 11 years. But with the Act, the time period has been reduced to 5 years but only for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants who have come from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on or before 31 December 2014. For Muslim migrants from the three countries under the Act, they will have to go through pre-existing procedures for naturalisation.

3. What About Overseas Citizens of India?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 states that the registration of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card-holders can be cancelled if they "violate the law." The OCI is an immigration status which allows a foreign citizen of Indian origin to work in India, indefinitely.

4. Where Will Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 Not be Implemented?

Areas included under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution like parts of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura will not be included in the Act. These areas include Korbi Anglong in Assam, Garo hills in Meghalaya, Chakma district in Manipur and tribal districts of Tripura.

5. Why Are People Protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019?

The main objection of those protesting the Act is that the law is against the Constitution, since it seeks to grant citizenship on the basis of religion. By granting citizenship to only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis and Christians, the law omits Muslims and Jews — going against the clause of secularism in the Constitution.

The second main objection has to do with the National Register of Citizens (NRC). With the government announcing its plans to implement a nationwide NRC, those protesting argue that CAA could possibly exclude Indian Muslims from citizenship. For instance, if a Bangladeshi Hindu is excluded from the NRC, the CAA gives them a fresh chance to acquire citizenship. But not for a Bangaldeshi Muslim. However, the government has argued that the Citizenship Amendment Act should be seen in isolation, and not in conjunction with NRC. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that Citizenship Amendment Act is not for Indian citizens, and that there is no plan to link the CAA with NRC.

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