The Citizenship Amendment Bill proposes to grant citizenship on the basis of religion – it allows people from six non-Muslim communities (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians) from three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh) to become Indian citizens. It allows immigrants to get citizenship only by living in the country for six years even if they lack proper documents. The contention is that India is a secular republic and it is against our Fundamentals Rights to discriminate on the basis of religion, which also violates Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 25 (Freedom of Religion) of the Constitution.
The Government argues that the Bill will help persecuted minorities to get shelter from their countries. However, if the government is so concerned about persecution, what are they doing about Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and why doesn’t the government include Ahmadiyyas, who are also infamous for the persecution they face in Pakistan.
On the other hand, the Bill has set ablaze the entire Northeast and specially Assam. Assam is protesting and people are on the streets demanding withdrawal for the bill. The AGP party has withdrawn its support from the government. Assam has faced many shutdowns since the day the government has proposed this controversial Bill. The Bill goes against the letter and spirit of Assam Accord signed in 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi government after six years of agitation. The Bill also violates Clause 6 of the Assam Accord that assures to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
The accord set the cutoff date for the immigrants as March 25, 1971 irrespective of religion, but two amendments – The Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules and The Foreigners (Amendment) Order – set the cut-off date for certain immigrant communities to December 31, 2014. There is no statics of illegal immigrants in Assam, thereby the fear in the state is illogical. The final draft of NRC has excluded listed 40 lahk names out of which some 30 lakh have filed for claims and the others are expected to be included later.
The worse that the government has done is provoking Sedition charges on the academic Hiren Gohain, activist Akhil Gogoi and a journalist Manjit Mahanta for articulating their opposition against the bill. The government misread history and its ideological agendas might plunge Assam into another adversary; forcing the Bill through the Parliament might open some old fault-lines in the Northeast.
Currently, the bill is pending in Rajya Sabha after getting passed from the Lok Sabha on the last day of Winter Session. This is the time Government should rethink its decision on the Bill and at least listen to its own allies and recall its promises done to the people of Assam.