The smoke surrounding Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) debate has everyone outraging but hardly anyone understands the historical, legislative or humanitarian context to it. I came across certain facts on why the CAA is the right step after a long delay which I summarise here.
Citizenship Amendment Act is not an Act that the BJP or Shri Amit Shah came up with to set some communal agenda. It was a just demand made by political parties across spectrum. Here is a letter CPI(M) General Secretary wrote to PM Manmohan Singh on May 12, 2012 on Bengali refugees.
The letter by Prakash Karat rightly pointed out how “lakhs of families are affected, the majority of them from Scheduled Caste communities like namashudra, pondra khatriya, majhi etc.”
It is important to be reminded here that Dr. Manmohan Singh himself endorsed the Citizenship Amendment Bill in 2003 for granting citizenship to persecuted minorities in the neighbouring countries. He, in fact, appealed for a more liberal approach.
CAA is not in any way about taking away the citizenship of Bharatiya Muslims or any other community. It is about doing justice to those who were persecuted for not being of majority religion in the Islamic nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Now, coming on to the facts on existing Citizenship rules and what the new amendment really means. Bharatiya citizenship can be acquired through one of the four ways- by birth, by descent, by registration or by naturalisation; CAB makes modifications to only the last way.
To acquire Citizenship by naturalisation certain conditions specified need to be fulfilled and this is applicable to anyone who wants to become a Bharatiya citizen. The two key conditions in this are that the person should not be an illegal migrant and should have stayed for more than 11 years in Bharat.
Without changing anything that already exists in citizenship by naturalisation, CAA simply makes it possible for Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh who had entered Bharat before 2015 to apply for citizenship.
CAA removes the distinction of an ILLEGAL migrant from persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh who had entered Bharat before 2015, making it possible for them to obtain citizenship after fulfilling the conditions in the Schedule.
All other conditions in the Schedule remain as it is except that the period for naturalisation for these migrants from persecuted minorities has been reduced from 11 years to 5 years.
This modification does not debar people from other religious communities to apply for citizenship. As long as they are not illegal migrants, the process for obtaining citizenship is open to all.
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