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What is Citizenship Amendment Bill and why Muslims are opposing it?

The new Citizenship Amendment Bill brings amendment in the Indian Citizenship Act

Being called as one of the most controversial bills of the Modi government, Citizenship Amendment Bill is all set to be introduced in Lok Sabha. The Union Cabinet of India passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on December 4. The bill is likely to be introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah next week. The new bill will  bring some amendment in the existing Indian Citizenship Act.

What is the Indian Citizenship Act?

Indian Citizenship Act came into existence in 1955, 8 years after the Independence of India from the British. The Indian Citizenship Act is the basis on which all the citizens of the country were extended citizenship. This also made the British citizen status and Commonwealth citizen status invalid. The act brought all the Indian people together under the umbrella of single citizenship.

The act consists of provisions to determine the citizenship of people by various means like by birth, by naturalization, by registration or by descent.

The new amendment is made in the same bill. The clause that defines illegal immigrant and their ability to apply for citizenship through naturalization is being amended. The current clause allows resident immigrants to get citizenship if they have lived in India for more than 11 years along with other terms and conditions.

What does the new Citizenship Amendment Bill say?

The new bill would change a key part in the category for illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. These are Muslim-majority states that were once part of undivided India as defined in the Government of India act 1935.

The amendment proposes – granting the ability to apply for Nationality of India for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, and Parsis fleeing from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh- even without any documents. These people are also termed as illegal immigrants.

It also relaxes the requirement of residing 11 years in the country to just 6 years for the above migrants to fall under the citizenship of the naturalization clause.

What is the Controversy?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill has excluded the Muslims entirely in the category. People including the leaders are saying that the bill is a direct violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India 1949. The Article 14 of Equality before Law states that ‘The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth’. Few people and leaders believe that the new bill has left out one section completely from the bill.

The government is saying that Muslims are not included in the bill because they are able to take refuge in other Islamic nations across the globe. For non-Muslim, it is said that minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, and Parsis) in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan are susceptible to persecution based on their religion.

Read more: Where Bullet Train Project in India stands now?

Senior Minister in Modi 2.0 government, Prakash Javedkar told reporters on Wednesday that the legislation is not against anyone and would follow the principles of natural justice.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was first introduced in 2016 by the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh. It was passed in the lower house that time but couldn’t get enough support in the Rajya Sabha.

Currently, BJP has a majority in the Lok Sabha, so it won’t be difficult to pass the bill in the lower house but they don’t have the numbers in Rajya Sabha. It would depend on MPs of other political parties, if the bill is passed or not. There is uncertainty again this time as big political parties such as Congress, RJD, TMC have already opposed the bill.

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