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Opinion: It Is Time To Understand The Citizenship Amendment Act

By Dr Aiswarya Biswal

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) came into effect once the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed after due deliberation through a democratic process of both houses of the parliament and President Shri Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to it.

The CAA provides the persecuted minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains of three of our neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the countries which have a track record of unspeakable violence towards its minority communities, a legal framework to acquire citizenship in India.

Yes, it is a fact that India achieved its independence from British rule in 1947 and adopted its constitution soon after but the fact which cannot be dismissed is that the concept of Indian civilisation based on ‘Sanatan Dharma’ principles has existed for many millennia at the least, where not only people of diverse faith co-existed peacefully and prospered but also the persecuted minorities such as Zoroastrians and Jews were given shelter, respect and dignity in this land and the evidence is there for all to see how the Jews and Parsi communities succeeded in the wider Indian conscience.

The Citizenship Amendment Act also reduces the duration of residency from 11 years to 5 years for the people of above six persecuted minorities from the above three countries which are Muslim majority countries. The Muslim population of the 3 countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are in majority in their respective countries and cannot be considered as persecuted minorities in principle.

However, saying that it cannot be denied that individuals can face persecution in any country and the existing Indian law facilitates the application of citizenship by those and the government of India has promised to take up those applications on a case by case basis.

The CAA considers only applications from the above minorities if they have arrived in India before 31st December 2014 and staying in India since which means that these unfortunate minority migrants are staying for many years before they will be granted the citizenship.

During the last 6 years, approximately 2830 Pakistani citizens, 912 Afghanistan citizens and 172 Bangladeshi citizens were awarded Indian citizenship and many of them were from the Muslim community. Also over the years, more than 4 Lakh 60 thousand Tamils of Indian Origin from Sri Lanka were awarded the citizenship. This proves the claims of those opposing the CAA as discriminatory are hollow.

The Government categorically stated that the law is about giving citizenship by following a due process of law to the persecuted six minorities from the above three countries and no way it will impact the current citizens of the country.

Surprisingly CAA is being framed in religious colours but religion has nothing to do with the citizenship Amendment Act. A notion has been inoculated among Muslims that it will affect their citizenship and rights but in reality, CAA has no implication on any Indian citizens including Muslims and their fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.

The protests in Northeast where the people believe that settling the immigrants permanently by providing the citizenship will change their regional identity and deprive of the indigenous people of resources while affecting their tradition, culture and language. Even if the above concerns are debatable, the government of India has provided the safeguards in the North-eastern states such as the provision of “Inner line of Permit” in the tribal areas.

The peaceful protests in a democracy is a right accorded to the citizens, however, the vested interests and the opposition parties using the university students to indulge in violence as happened in Jamia Milia University and Aligarh Muslim University is highly condemnable. The opposition parties taking the guise of student protest to settle the scores against the ruling BJP government and the popular PM Shri Narendra Modi while indulging in Muslim minority vote bank politics is highly deplorable.

While it is accepted that students and citizens, in general, have the right to criticise the government and its policies, the widely circulated videos in the social media suggest that many protesters have no clue whatsoever regarding the act and the reason of their protest. Unfortunately, they soon become the instruments of anarchy in resorting to violence and vandalism of public property especially violence against our proud and hardworking police force causing significant damage to their life and wellbeing when vested interests use them to settle political scores.

What concerns common people the most is the resort to violence and damage to civilian and government property by the University Students from the above universities and the shouting of slogans such as Hindus will be killed and buried in the AMU University, which cannot be allowed in any civilised country. While respecting the student’s rights to protest and demonstrate peacefully, any kind of violence should be strictly punished.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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