The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019, was passed, with a huge majority, in both houses of parliament. On December 9, 2019, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha amidst heated debates, and 311 MPs voted in favour of the bill and 80 MPs voted against. On December 11, 2019, in the Rajya Sabha too, the bill was passed amidst fierce and heated debate and arguments.
After getting clearance from both, the lower and upper house, in the Parliament, President Ram Nath Kovind signed on it and hence, the CAB became an act (CAA).
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 seeks to amend a law, that dates back to 1955, in order to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jains refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. After the CAB become CAA, people belonging to these communities will no longer be deported or sent to jail under the Foreign Act, 1946 and the Passport Act, 1920. Under the CAA, December 31, 2014, is the cut-off date after which, any person moving to India from these neighboring countries will be considered for citizenship.
Critics of the bill, including many opposition parties, say that it discriminates on the basis of religion and is, therefore, against the secular principles of the Constitution. AIMIM President and MP from Hyderabad, Assaduddin Owaisi, tore a copy of the bill in the Lok Sabha amidst fierce debate over the Bill.
Owaisi said it was brought in to target only the Muslim community as part of a hidden agenda of the RSS and Hindutva. He linked the CAA with the NRC, and said if the NRC is carried out across the country, it will make only Muslims stateless, in case their names aren’t included in the NRC. But, if a Hindu name is not included in the NRC, he said, then Hindus can get citizenship through the CAA.
Constitutional experts have even cautioned that the proposed amendment violates article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees equality to all before the law. Although, the BJP dismissed the charge and the union home minister, Amit Shah, said in the Lok Sabha that “Muslims have no need to fear as it’s not a citizenship-taker but a giver”, and the Bill doesn’t violate article 14 as the Bill allows for classification.
Constitutional expert and NALSAR law university vice-chancellor Faizan Mustafa said, in an interview with the Economic Times, that the CAA goes against the Constitutional vision. He said that this classification is not reasonable and rationale classification because, first, it doesn’t cover all neighboring countries. Second, it doesn’t cover all persecuted minority. Third, it’s arbitrary in nature.
CAA will not be applicable to the land which falls under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the ILP ( inner line permit). ILP is granted under section 2 of the Eastern Bengal Frontier Regulation Act, 1873. The ILP covers Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland, except Dimapur, and the Sixth Schedule covers Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura.
Clearance of the Bill in both houses of the Parliament and assent of the President triggered nation-wide protests. As per reports, Assam, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh, and other northeastern states saw much outpouring of resentment by the public.
From the common man and women to students, to leaders and activists, to singers, actors, all took to the streets and protested, expressed strong opposition and anger, against the CAB. Some parts of Assam, Meghalaya, and parts of the northeast saw reports of arson incidents, road-block, and the imposition of section 144, and internet services were blocked too.
Schools, colleges, and offices remaining shut. The AASU (All Assam Students Union) announced that protests would continue in a non-violent way till the withdrawal of the CAB. Some violent protests were also reported from parts of West Bengal, Murshidabad, where protestors set a bus ablaze, pelted stones, and allegedly vandalized the railway station.
Students of Jamia Millia Islamia’s student’s association and the teacher’s association also protested and condemned the Bill strongly. On December 13, 2019, students and teachers gathered to take out a rally in a non-violent way from Jamia’s gate number 1 to Sansad Marg, but police personnel tried to prevent them, and students were manhandled.
This turned into a violent incident, in which more than 50 students were injured, and the police too. Stone pelting and brick batting took place between protesters and police. Police also pelted stones, used lathi-charge and tear gas to over-power protestors.
However, the protestors didn’t stop, and the flame of anger against the bill kept popping up. On December 15, students and local residents gathered in thousands and moved towards Sansad Marg, but again, this protest turned violent as police personnel excessively lathi-charged and fired tear gas, resulting in several students getting injured.
Two buses were set ablaze too. So far, there is no clarity as to who set the bus on fire, as students stated their denial, and defended their protests as being non-violent and peaceful, under their constitutional rights. Students said that it was a conspiracy by ‘anti-social’ elements to blame Jamia university and its students.
This CAA has been challenged in the Supreme Court by several organizations and individuals, including the IUML and Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh. We have to see when the Supreme Court will decide to constitute a bench and give its verdict.