THE CITIZENSHIP amendment bill
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) states: “Nothing in this section shall apply to autonomous tribal-dominated regions of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The InterLine’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
The Inner Line Permit (ILP) system prevails in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. In Nagaland, Dimapur town is not under ILP as of now.
How does the ILP system work?
- ILP is a special permit that citizens from other parts of India require to enter the three states. It can be obtained after applying online or physically and specifies dates of travel and areas which the ILP holder can travel to.
- When the regime was introduced under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, the objective was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions. In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”, to address local concerns about protecting their interests.
What does this exemption mean for beneficiaries under CAB?
- In ILP states, there are already a large number of migrants from other Indian states. They live and work there equipped with long-term ILPs, and renew these. The question now being asked, therefore, is whether a person who becomes an Indian citizen through CAB can, or cannot, apply for an ILP and work in such states, just like any other Indian citizen.
- Also, multiple restrictions and regulations exist on entry and stay of “outsiders” (Indian citizens from outside that state/area) in areas under the Inner Line system or the Sixth Schedule. These existing rules are expected to put the same restrictions on someone who has acquired citizenship through CAB.
The exemptions appear to imply, however, that no immigrant non-citizens living in these areas can be regularised as an Indian citizen through CAB. “The exemption means that no Bangladeshi will be allowed to settle in Mizoram and other ILP states under CAB.
What is the Sixth Schedule, and which areas are exempted from CAB?
- The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, described in Articles 244(2) and 275(1), relates to e tribal areas are divided into autonomous districts and are governed by Autonomous District Councils (ADC). The councils have the power to legislate on a variety of subjects and can even nullify state legislation in certain cases. There are both Governor-nominated and elected representatives in the ADCs.
- Mizoram is covered under the ILP regime in any case. Among the other three states that have areas protected under the Sixth Schedule, tribal-majority Meghalaya has three ADCs that cover practically the entire state, except for a small part of Shillong city. Assam has three ADCs and Tripura one, all with Sixth Schedule powers.
Are there any other provisions for Manipur?
- The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971, passed by Parliament, paved the way for the establishment of six Autonomous District Councils in Manipur in 1972. Piang notes, however, that without the Sixth Schedule in place, these Councils have much lower powers in comparison to ADCs under the Sixth Schedule.
- Last year, the Manipur People Bill, 2018 was passed by the Assembly. Said to be awaiting presidential assent, it proposes to several regulations on “outsiders” or “non-Manipuri people” in the state. The Bill had undergone series of negotiations on defining the “Manipuri” people, after which a consensus was reached on 1951 as the cut-off year.
- The Bill has triggered widespread protests in northeastern states where many feel that permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region’s demography and further burden resources and decrease employment opportunities for indigenous people.
- A large section of people and organisations opposing the Bill also says it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.
The act has been amended four times — in 1986, 2003, 2005, and 2015.
- 1986 amendment: Unlike the constitutional provision and the original Citizenship Act that gave citizenship on the principle of jus soli (born on Indian soil) to everyone born in India, the 1986 amendment to Section 3 was less inclusive.
- The amendment has added the condition that those who were born in India on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, shall be an Indian citizen.
- Those born after July 1, 1987, and before December 4, 2003, in addition to one’s own birth in India, can get citizenship only if either of his parents was an Indian citizen at the time of birth.
- 2003 amendment: The amendment made the above condition more stringent, keeping in view infiltration from Bangladesh.
- Now the law requires that for those born on or after December 4, 2004, in addition to the fact of their own birth, both parents should be Indian citizens or one parent must be an Indian citizen and other should not be an illegal migrant.
- With these restrictive amendments, India has almost moved towards the narrow principle of jus sanguinis or blood relationship.
- This lays down that an illegal migrant cannot claim citizenship by naturalisation or registration even if he has been a resident of India for seven years.
ASSAM MOVEMENT AND ASSAM ACCORD ACT
- The Assam movement that started from 1979 till 1985 was a movement against illegal immigrants. It all started in 1979 when election officials found an abrupt increase in a number of voters before the by-poll in Mangaldai constituency for Lok Sabha. This matter was immediately taken up by the AASU led by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. They demanded permanent sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh border, the expulsion of the names of faulty voters (outsiders) and all outsiders who had entered the state after 1951 should be sent back. There were economic issues too, the state had a high unemployment rate and poverty despite the existence of natural resources such as tea, oil and coal. These resources were drained out without commensurate benefit to the people living in Assam.
- This resulted in the framing of the Assam Accord which was signed by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The movement came to an end in 1985 after AGP formed by P.K Mahanta and his other colleagues won the Assam elections in 1985 which promised to eradicate the issue of illegal immigrants and build a Golden Assam.
- This issue directly threatened the local Assamese people as they believed that there was a threat to their culture and being reduced to a minority in their own land.
But till today, Assam Accord has not been ratified properly and all the previous governments have failed to implement it, the issues of outsiders continue to be a live issue in Assam politics with successive governments failing to meet the clauses of the Assam Accord which mainly highlights the need to expel the outsiders
Different Scenario in Assam
- The Assam Movement against illegal immigration eventually led to the historic Assam Accord of 1985, signed by the Movement leaders and the Rajiv Gandhi government.
- It set March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for the deportation of illegal migrants.
- Since the cut-off date prescribed under articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949 – to give force to the new date, an amendment was made to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and a new section (6A) was introduced.
Citizenship Act 1955- Section 6A
- The section was made applicable only to Assam.
- It laid down that all persons of Indian origin who entered Assam before January 1, 1966, and have been ordinary residents will be deemed, Indian citizens.
- Those who came after 1 January 1966 but before March 25, 1971, and have been ordinary residents, will get citizenship at the expiry of 10 years from their detection as a foreigner.
- During this interim period, they will not have the right to vote but can get an Indian passport.
- In Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (2014) where the constitutionality of the 1986 amendment was challenged (the Mahasangha argues that the cutoff year for Assam should be 1951 instead of 1971), the court referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.
- To examine whether Section 6A is constitutional and valid though it prescribes a different cutoff date for Assam (1971) from the one prescribed in the Constitution for the rest of the country (1949).
- Identification of foreigners as needed by Section 6A was to be done under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, (IMDT Act), 1983, which was applicable only in Assam while the Foreigners Act, 1946 was applicable in the rest of the country.
- The provisions of the IMDT Act made it difficult to deport illegal immigrants.
- On the petition of Sarbananda Sonowal (now the Chief Minister of Assam), the Act was held unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005.
- This was eventually replaced with the Foreigners (Tribunals for Assam) Order, 2006, which again was struck down in 2007.
- In the IMDT case, the court considered classification based on geographical considerations to be a violation of the right to equality under Article 14.
This act again makes a greater influx of immigrant even after when they have been provided with the exception because they believe where these immigrants shall go if not to northeastern states of West Bengal. They believe in their society, language and race, not any religion. Therefore they are protesting against even Hindu immigrants.
RAJNATH SINGH ON BILL
Indian Muslims have no reason to fear from the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Home Minister Amit Shah told Lok Sabha as he replied to the debate on the controversial bill on Monday. The Lok Sabha passed the bill after a 12-hour debate after a division of votes for which 311 MPs voted in favour and 80 against it.
“The bill has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. The bill only intends to provide protection to the persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh,” Amit Shah assured.
The home minister claimed that there was no fear among the minorities in India. “Even if some fear has risen after the statements by the opposition, I must assure every Indian that, under the Narendra Modi government, minorities have no reason to fear,” he said.
Amit Shah was replying to questions raised by Lok Sabha MPs after the home minister tabled the bill in the House earlier in the day.
‘CAB neither Illegal nor Unconstitutional’
Claiming that Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is not illegal or unconstitutional, Home Minister Amit Shah said that the proposed legislation provided for protecting the rights or minorities who were trying to escape persecution in neighbouring Islamic nations. The home minister also said that the bill seeks to help persecuted minorities and not intruders.
‘Partition on Religious lines necessitated CAB’
“It would have been nice if Partition did not take place on the religious line, but it did. Muslim majority areas went to Pakistan and rest became India. Had India not been divided into religious lines, there was no need for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” Amit Shah said.
The home minister claimed that the deal between Jawaharlal Nehru and Liyaqat Ali was that both countries will take care of their minorities. “But this did not happen.”
“In 1951, the minority in Pakistan was 23 per cent and it has become much less. In Bangladesh, it was 22 per cent, in 2011, it has come down to 7.8 per cent,” the home minister said, adding that in India, the Muslim population has gone up from 9.8 per cent in 1951 to 14.3 per cent.
Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that minorities in neighbouring countries had shrunk because either they converted, were killed or fled.
“Those who have suffered are the ones who can best tell their story,” he said. “We cannot say no to shelter to those who have come here seeking protection for their daughters.”
On why the bill does not have provisions for similar migrants from Nepal or Sri Lanka, Home Minister Amit Shah said that India has decided on the refugees on a case by case basis, as and when the issue had arisen.
Rejecting the claim that the bill was a step in the direction of Hindu Rashtra, Amit Shah claimed that the population of Hindus has gone down from 81 per cent in 1991 to 79 per cent now.
Why no provisions for Muslims Refugees
Clarifying on why the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill provided for the protection of only Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, and not Mulism, from the neighbouring nations, the home minister claimed that since all three countries were Islamic, the Muslims could not be among the persecuted.
Indian Muslims have nothing to do with CAB
Amit Shah said that the bill had nothing to do with Muslims or minorities in India.”We are referring to minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. This is a fact.” “There are Muslims here. They are living here without any problem,” the home minister said. “I want to assure you today to all brother-sister. No one needs to be scared. We will not discriminate. I assure you. We have no hatred towards Muslims. Do not create one. There is no connection of Indian Muslims with the bill”
Home Minister Amit Shah said that proposed legislation was not a trap, as claimed by the opposition. “There is only citizenship from three countries. But trap for those who let infiltrators in,” Amit Shah said. According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The bill, which has been opposed by the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties, was introduced after a division of votes for which 293 MPs voted in favour and 82 against it.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for sanctions against Amit Shah and “other principal leadership” over the passage of the Bill on 9 December 2019. The Ministry of External Affairs (India) issued a statement following this:
The statement made by the USCIRF on the Citizenship Amendment Bill is neither accurate nor warranted. […] Neither the CAB or National Register of Citizens (NRC) process seeks to strip citizenship from any Indian citizen of any faith. Suggestions to that effect are motivated and unjustified. […]
— Raveesh Kumar, Official Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, GOI
Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, criticized the proposed citizenship law for violating bilateral agreements. In January 2019, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had said to a Joint Committee of Parliament on an earlier version of the CAB that the “CAB could be misused by foreign agents to infiltrate India” (from agencies like Pakistan’s ISI) and that it “could become “legal framework” which they could use to infiltrate India.”
According to PRS Legislative Research, there is a question regarding the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India because the Bill provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their country of origin, religion, date of entry into India, and place of residence in India (regarding exempted northeast India regions). The reason for the inclusion of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the Bill states that India has historic migration of people with these nations and there is religious persecution of minorities in these nations but the Bill excludes the religiously persecuted minorities of neighbouring nations such as Rohingyas in Myanmar and Tamils in Sri Lanka and lack the explanation of migration with Afghanistan. The inclusion only six specified religious minorities and exclusion of other minorities facing religious persecution, such as Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan and the atheists in Bangladesh, is questioned.
According to PRS Legislative Research, the ability to notify any law and lack of clarity of these laws whose violation may result in OCI cancellation may amount to an excessive delegation of powers by the legislature and may give wide discretion to the government for cancellation of OCI.
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