CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL (CAB): Not surprisingly, India’s new anti-Muslim legislation is causing an uproar among Muslims.
BBC India’s government has tabled a bill in parliament which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries. The controversial bill seeks to provide citizenship to religious minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says this will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution. Critics say the bill is part of a BJP agenda to marginalize Muslims. (A very GOOD thing)
The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) will be a test for the ruling party, which commands a majority in the lower house but is short of numbers in the upper house of parliament. A bill needs to be ratified by both houses to become a law.
The bill has already prompted widespread protests in the north-east of the country which borders Bangladesh, as people there feel that they will be “overrun” by immigrants from across the border.
The CAB amends the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens. Illegal immigrants can be deported or jailed. The new bill also amends a provision which says a person must have lived in India or worked for the federal government for at least 11 years before they can apply for citizenship.
Now, there will be an exception for members of six religious minority communities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian – if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They will only have to live or work in India for six years to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation, the process by which a non-citizen acquires the citizenship or nationality of that country.
Opponents of the bill say it is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. They say faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship. Historian Mukul Kesavan says the bill is “couched in the language of refuge and seemingly directed at foreigners, but its main purpose is the delegitimisation of Muslims citizenship”.