What is Citizenship Amendment Act and how is it different from NRC?

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Dec 17, 2019, 02:10 PM IST
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File photo. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 became an Act after receiving formal assent from President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13. 

By Mallika Singh 

The Citizenship Amendment Act has provoked violent protests throughout India especially in the regions of North East, West Bengal and now New Delhi and has gathered high criticism from the national as well as the international community.

Four people have died in Assam, over 3000 people have been detained, 190 arrested and 136 cases have been registered over the last week of violent protests that have rocked the state. 

"Four people have been killed in police action, unfortunately. The situation had become such that the police had to fire to save more people and property," said Assam's Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta. 

"We had detained over 3,000 protestors. Preventive detentions are also taking place. We allowed the youngsters to leave after a counselling session," Mahanta added.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 became an Act after receiving formal assent from President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13. 

Earlier the Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha after a heated nine hour-long debate, on December 11, 2019, with 125 votes to 105, as it was previously introduced and passed in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament on December 9, 2019, with 311-80 votes.  

The fundamental criticism being faced is that the new Act specifically targets Muslims, making it in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which enshrines the Fundamental Right to equality.

The Citizenship Act is also being linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is currently under implementation in Assam and according to Union Home Minister Amit Shah is to be prepared for every state in the country.

What is the Citizenship Amendment Act?

The highly contentious Act seeks to grant Indian citizenship to undocumented religious minorities-namely Hindus, Sikh, Jain, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from the neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan who moved to the country before the date of December 31, 2014.

It amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 which regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds by adding provisions for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in section 2, in sub-section (1), in clause (b) that they shall not be treated as illegal migrants. Illegal migrants are not eligible for Indian Citizenship.

Under the provisions for procurement of citizenship by naturalisation, the BJP lead Indian government seeks to amend the requirement that the applicant must have resided in India "not less than five years" in place of "not less than eleven years" for the mentioned six religious communities from the three Muslim majority countries through Section 2(1) (b).

The Bill also seeks to amend provisions related to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders, making it possible to cancel OCI registration of these persons in case of violation of any law notified by the Central Government.

Who are Illegal migrants? 

Illegal migrants are defined as those foreigners who enter the country without valid travel documentation or who enter with valid documentation but exceed their permitted period of stay. 

The new Citizenship Act implies that the mentioned communities will not be deported or imprisoned for being in India without valid documentation under The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.

 What is NRC?

The National Register of Citizens is a list of Indian citizens living in the state of Assam. 

The first NRC was compiled in 1951 due to the issues of "outsiders" that the state has experienced on the accord of vast population exchange post-partition and for being a border state of India. 

On August 31, 2019, under the supervision of the Indian Supreme Court, Assam had released the updated version of the list seeking to preserve the state’s ethnic uniqueness.

How is CAA different from NRC?

The CAA is driven by religion as it seeks to grant Indian citizenship to undocumented religious minorities, while the NRC seeks to detect any illegal migrants, irrespective of their religion, who moved to India post-midnight March 24, 1971, and eventually deport them to their native country.

Another major difference between the two is that the NRC is currently only confined to the state of Assam, despite Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s repeated claims that the NRC will be implemented nationwide.

The CAA is applicable nationally, despite the claimed intentions of Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab to block the Act in their respective states.

Will the CAA have an impact on NRC?

The updated version of the list has reportedly left out 19 lakh applicants who can approach tribunals formed at the tehsil level and the Assam government will provide required financial assistance to file plea to those in need, Amit Shah claimed in parliament on November 20, 2019.