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Know everything about the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019.

In the midnight session of the Lok Sabha on 9th December 2019, the passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Lower house of the Parliament has created a huge uproar around the country. People across the nation have divided opinions on the passage of the bill. Many groups of people specifically in the North- East and West Bengal have called for a bandh to show their opposition to the bill. The supporters of the bill argue that it is a right step for the national security, while its opponents claim that the bill is discriminatory against the Muslim community.

The citizenship is essence of the nation. The laws of the nation determine who to include/ exclude as citizens. It’s important to know about the constitutional provisions of citizenship and the changes that the latest amendment is about to make.

Constitutional Provision related to Citizenship:

The Citizenship Act 1955 lists 5 major ways by which one can become a citizen of India. The provisions include:

  1. By Birth:
    1. A person born in India on or after 26 January 1950 but before 1 July 1987 automatically becomes Indian citizen.
    2. A person born in India on or after 1 July 1987 is considered a citizen only if either of his parents were citizens of India at her/his birth.
  2. By Descent:
    1. A person born outside India on or after 26 January 1950 but before 10 December 1992, is a citizen of India by descent.
    2. A person born after 10 December 1992 is considered Indian citizen if either of his parents were citizens of India at her/his birth.
  3. By Registration:
    1. The Central Government can register a person as a citizen if she/he is:
      1. A person of Indian origin, living in India for 7 years.
      2. Minor children of Indian parents
      3. A person of Indian origin, who was resident of any country outside the undivided India.A person staying in India for 7 years and is married to an Indian citizen.
  1. By Naturalisation:
    1. A person of full age and capacity not being an illegal migrant applies for naturalisation, the central government may grant him naturalisation.

 5. By Incorporation of territory: If any territory become part of India, the government can specify people who will be incorporated as Indian citizens.

A Person can lose his citizenship on three accounts:
Renunciation,
Termination, and
Deprivation

The Citizenship Act, 1955 has been amended four times (1986, 1992, 2003 and 2005) till now and the Citizenship Amendment 2019, if passed by the Parliament will be fifth amendment.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019:

  • The bill will amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and allow Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014, eligible for Indian citizenship.
  • The bill will make it easier for Non-Muslims illegal migrants from the above-mentioned countries to get Indian citizenship.
  • The bill exempts the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution from its applicability.
  • The bill also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years.
  • The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016 as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
  • It was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on August 12, 2016. The Committee submitted its report on January 7, 2019.

Reaction to the Bill:

  • The principal criticism of the Bill has been that it is anti-Muslim. Critics argue that it is anti-constitutional as it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
  • Those who favor the bill, argue that the bill aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority neighbouring nations.

Why people are protesting in North-East and West Bengal:

  • The bill will alter the ethnic composition of several North-Eastern states, as several non-Muslim migrants will be granted citizenship.
  • The illegal Muslim migrants settled in North-East and West Bengal will lose their livelihood and home

Way Ahead:

A Nation has all the rights to determine its citizenship, but the process should not be discriminatory. People’s confidence in the Government should be strengthened by bridging the trust deficit. We must ensure that concerns of all community are addressed and due care is taken in implementation of the amendment.

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