Mass messaging: on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill
Protests in the Northeast, especially in Assam and Tripura, over the Centre’s move to push through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament highlight the dangerous pre-election adventurism of the BJP. The Bill seeks to confer Indian citizenship to persecuted migrants from the Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddhist communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014.
The Bill, contentious in itself for its exclusion of Muslims, is seen by many as a ploy to legitimise the presence of Hindu Bengalis who had reached the Northeast in the aftermath of the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
The BJP’s ally in the Assam government, the Asom Gana Parishad, an ethnic party at its core, called it quits on Monday when the Union Cabinet cleared the redrafted Bill for introduction in the Lok Sabha. It was passed on Tuesday.
Rajendra Agrawal-led Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report is categorical which says the Assam Government should help settle migrants especially in places which are not densely populated, thus, causing lesser impact on the demographic changes and providing succor to the indigenous Assamese people. Thus, an alliance with the BJP became politically impossible for the native AGP.
What this bill says?
With The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2018, the government plans to change the definition of illegal migrants. The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction. However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who also face persecution in Pakistan.
The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.
Why and who all are opposing the Bill in Assam?
Assam considers the Bill to work against the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of the State. NGOs such as The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and students’ organisation All Assam Students’ Union also have come forward opposing the Bill.
All Opposition parties, including the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front, have opposed the idea of granting citizenship to an individual on the basis of religion. It is also argued that the Bill, if made into an Act, will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC). The process of updating the NRC is currently underway in Assam.
What is NRC?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is meant to identify a bona fide citizen. In other words, by the order of the Supreme Court of India, NRC is being currently updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals who might have entered the State illegally after the midnight of March 24, 1971. The date was decided in the 1985 Assam Accord, which was signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the AASU. The NRC was first published after the 1951 Census in the independent India when parts of Assam went to the East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
The first draft of the updated list was concluded by December 31, 2017. The second draft is yet to be released.
How will the Bill affect the updated NRC list?
While Bill is designed to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees persecuted in neighbouring countries, NRC does not distinguish migrants on the basis of religion. It will consider deporting anyone who has entered the State illegally post-March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion. Currently there are six detention camps for illegal migrants in Assam but it’s still not clear how long the people will be detained in these camps. The process of deportation or duration of detention is not clear as it has not been stated by the government. But if the Bill becomes an Act, the non-Muslims need not go through any such process, meaning this will be clearly discriminating against Muslims identified as undocumented immigrants.
Other than Assam, what are the States likely to be affected?
States sharing borders with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are likely to be affected.
The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, an ally of the BJP, has opposed the Bill. Calling the bill “dangerous,” the Meghalaya government said that they don’t agree with the idea of non-Muslims acquiring citizenship after six years of living in the country.
The blowback from the Bill in the Brahmaputra valley is not lost on the BJP either. It has tried to offset the impact with two decisions aimed at appealing to the Assamese electorate. These, the constitution of a committee to resurrect and operationalise the crucial Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord stipulating “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for the Assamese people”, and the proposal to accord Scheduled Tribe status to six major communities that are currently classified as OBCs, are of a piece. They are intended to assuage and assure Assamese speakers that the party can merge Hindutva obligations with local interests. The ST status could turn Assam, which has a 34% Muslim population, into a tribal State with a majority of seats reserved. The panel could recommend reservation of seats in the Assembly and local bodies and in jobs for the indigenous populace.
Key Issues and Analysis
violation of Article 14
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
© Powered By Current Hunt, Designed & Developed By Quizsolver.com
This function has been disabled for Current Hunt.