One of the most controversial bills ever presented in the Indian Parliament, The Citizenship Amendment Bill, gets the stature of law, after a nod from the President of India.
According to an official notification, the law will be effective after its publication in the official gazette. On Thursday 12th December 2019, after a long session of debate and discussion, the bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament. It aims at providing citizenship, to those who had sought refuge in India, because of religious and ethnic persecution, or other atrocities, in their countries of origin.
The Act will legalise the citizenship of those people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian communities, who came to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, on or before December 31, 2014. Further, the Act nullifies the 1955 Citizen Act, under which, a person was labelled as an ‘ illegal immigrant’, if she or he has entered the Indian territory, without any legal documentation. As per the new Act, persecuted refugees will be declared as national citizens, if they belong to any of the above-mentioned religions; excluding Muslims.
As the bill passed in both houses with a majority, massive incidents of violence and protests broke out in the northeastern states of India; the belt that was in staunch opposition to the bill, as it can significantly redistribute the demographic structure of those states, that have maximum undocumented infiltrations.
The Army was also deployed to disperse protestors, with potential modes of communication being shut down.
Now, it will be very important to watch what implication this move has on the ongoing protests. Also, if the whole thing is connected to NRC, as many suggest, the fear of violation of basic rights of Muslim citizens could become a reality. The law will not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, and in the areas covered under The Inner Line, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.