CITIZENSHIP BILL IN QUESTION

CITIZENSHIP BILL IN QUESTION

I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu or Christian or Mussalman, but I want it t be wholly tolerant, with its religious working side by side with another.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Introduction

The  was Citizenship Bill introduced after the Amendment in the previous Citizenship Act, 1955. India has a vast diversity and an idea of secularism has kept India a united nation. The literal meaning of the word ‘secular’ is ‘no religion’. But in our country the word ‘secularism’ means something else, here the word secularism means ‘respecting all religions’ and ‘freedom to exercise every religion’. India is ‘one entity’ despite so much ‘diversity’. In 1947, British India was divided into two dominions i.e., India and Pakistan, India choose to remain secular on the other side Pakistan chose to become an Islamic Nation.

The leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R Ambedkar, and Sardar Vallabbhai Patel defined their idea of secularism in their own way and struggled together to make India a secular nation which is enshrined in the Constitution of India. The idea of secularism still exist among citizens, but the speeches made by the Politicians against different religions or gender, and their act or conduct dilutes the idea of ‘secularism’, which sometimes result into mob lynching, hatred, phobia from one religion, etc. One such bill was passed by Lok Sabha which is against secularism and thousands of people are protesting to terminate it. This article will update you about ‘Why this Citizenship Bill is against secularism’?

Citizenship Bill, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed from 16thLok Sabha Session in January 2019 but never introduced in RajyaSabha. Later, with the end of the 16th Parliament Session the Bill lapsed from LokSabha. Thereafter, the Bill was passed from LokSabha on 10th December 2019 and the next day it was passed from Rajya Sabha. Nonetheless, Bill was criticized by North-East states and the protest which began in January still continued. The reason for the criticism of Bill is as follows-

  • The New Bill was introduced after the Amendment in the previous Citizenship Act, 1955. The definition of ‘illegal immigrant’ was changed in current Bill. Previously, any person who does have the proper documents to prove his/her citizenship is an immigrant whereas according to a new bill, people from specified three countries i.e., Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, belonging to the specifically mentioned religions, will not be treated as ‘illegal immigrant’. The religions are as follows: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
  • According to the former Act, every person who is living in the country from the past 11years will become a citizen whereas according to new act the citizen living for 6 years will become a member.
  • Another clause says that registration of OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) will be canceled in case of violation of any law.

The major criticism drawn by the people is that it divides people on the basis of religion. According to this Act, the basis of citizenship is a religion that is certainly against the definition of secularism.

Citizenship Bill in Contradiction: The aforementioned citizenship bill is in contradiction with various existing substantial law. The contradiction is as follows-

Citizenship Bill v. NRC

The National Register of Citizens, first published after the 1951 census, is then updated on March 24, 1971. The record essentially identifies those who entered Assam illegally from Bangladesh after the aforesaid date. The applicants have to submit documents to prove that their names appeared in the NRC 1951 or in any electoral rolls of Assam till 1971.

Indeed, the Citizenship Bill and National Register of Citizens feed each other, as all the citizens registered under the Bill will apparently receive citizenship under Bill. But the evasion in the new Bill is that it talks about registration on the basis of individual’s religion whereas no such clause is there on the NRC.

Citizenship Bill v. Assam Accord

The Assam Accord was signed by All Assam Students Union, Assam government and the Central Government in New Delhi in the year 1985. Consequently, a list has been made and implemented, as a resolution to the problem of foreigners in Assam. According to the Accord, people who came to Assam prior to the 1st January 1966 would be given citizenship. Further, people who moved from the state between 1st January 1966 to 24th March 1971 would be convicted, according to the Foreigners Act,1946, and Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964. Nevertheless, the resolution of the foreigners who entered Assam after 24th March 1971 is also provided. The signing of the accord ensured that the agitation came to an end.

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord is as follows-

Constitutional, legislative, and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate shall be provided to protect, preserve, and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.’

The Assam Accord was made according to the citizens there, as the State of Assam is rich in culture and heritage which can be exploited by the introduction of the new Citizenship Bill. The acceptance of refugees might create complications for the citizens, as the citizens have to share their opportunities with the imminent refugees.

Indigenous People

When the draft was released in the year 2018, millions of people left out with the risk of becoming stateless. Most of them were poor illiterate and members of Muslim Minority.

Other Assamese Nationalists were also unhappy and criticized the Bill. The All Assam Student’s Union (AASU) signatory of Assam Accord accused the government to provide indigenous people of the state a ‘foreigner = free NRC’.

In order to get registered in NRC, a person needs to prove the documentary evidence that he/she or his/her ancestors have entered the country before 1971. The State has a population of 32 million residents including Indigenous People and various tribes. According to anonymous resources, Upper Assam District such as Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, and Sibsagar were excluded from NRC. These districts are known for indigenous and tribal people.

Foreign Tribunals

The Publication of National Register Citizens has left lakhs of people in the fear of losing their Citizenship. But there is still a flickering hope for those excluded from the NRC i.e. Foreign Tribunals. Foreign Tribunal is formed under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, which was issued by the Central Government under Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

There are hundreds of Foreign Tribunals in the State which has to be increased by the State Government. This quasi-judicial body is headed by the Lawyer called FT Member, who functions under bi-partisan members under the State Government.

According to Rule 8 of the Citizenship Rules,2003-

“Rule 8 of the Citizenship Rules, 2003 anybody whose name is not included in the NRC, will not be treated as a foreigner. He has a right to appeal.

The time period for appeal is 60 days which was extended to 12 days by the State Government. Moreover, the State Government has categorically stated, any needy person, whose name is not included in the NRC, will be given legal aid.

Where the CAB does not apply?

The Act does not apply to the seven North-Eastern states of India these are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Tripura. Further, the Act applies to the region which is not exempted in the Sixth Schedule of Constitution and the areas covered under ‘The InterLine’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier,1873. To understand this exception better, we have to perceive the above two concepts.

Sixth Schedule: The Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India describes two Articles, Article 244(2) and 275(1) relates to the Special Provision in Administration of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. This Provision provides Special Powers for Autonomous District Councils (ADC) in these states. The ADCs have the power to enact laws in the areas under their Jurisdiction on a variety of subjects. The objective of ADC is to ensure the development of tribal areas and boosting self-governance by tribal communities.

The InterLine: The InterLine is notified under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The system is known as the ‘Interline Permit System’ usually known as ‘ILP’. The system prevails in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram. The citizen of other parts of India requires a permit known as ‘ILP’ if they want to enter in these three states. The ILP can be obtained easily by applying online or physically. The ILP was introduced in 1873; the objective was to protect the State from ‘British Subjects’ from trading within these regions.

Manipur: The Manipur was a princely state when it merged with Indian Union in the year 1949 whereas it became an independent state in the year 1972. While granting statehood during Independence, special status was granted to Manipur under Article 371C of Constitution. Under this Article the interest of Citizens is being protected as the State subsists a high amount of tribal population.

Conclusion: The Citizenship Bill has already challenged in the Supreme Court of India by the ‘Indian Union of Muslim League’ along with four other members of Parliament. Apart from this, the Bill faces criticism by most of the Indian Citizens.

Furthermore, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (UNSCIRF) called the Bill ‘deeply troubled’ and ‘will consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.’ It is clear that the Citizenship Bill is against Secularism as it grants citizenship on the basis of an individual’s religion. On the flip side, if citizenship is granted, does the Indian Government have enough resources to improve the lives of new citizens? As usual the question remains unanswered. It is now on Apex Court to decide whether the change will stand Constitutionally valid or not.

REFERENCES:

  • Citizenship Amendment Bill; The Hindu; December 11, 2019
  • Where the CAB does not apply?; Abhishek Saha; December 8, 2019; The Indian Express
  • LS clears CAB: Shah invokes ‘Partition on basis of religion’ to defend Bill; Deeptiman Tiwary and Abhishek Dastidar; December 10, 2019; The Indian Express
  • USCIRF, the Commission concerned over CAB: What are its functions?; December 10, 2019; Shubhajit Roy; The Indian Express