By Kriti Rathi
With the winter Parliament session having begun from December 15, which would last up to January 5, 14 bills have been scheduled to be tabled, and three bills to replace the ordinances. One of the few noteworthy and controversial bills would have to be the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
Redefining illegal immigrants
The Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, had introduced the bill in Lok Sabha, with a major focus on the citizenship of illegal immigrants in India. According to the Citizenship Act,1955 an illegal migrant is defined as a foreigner who travels to India without a passport and other travel documents or somebody who overstays their visit in the country. This Amendment bill aims to modify the definition by removing the foreigners falling under the category as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. They will no longer be treated as illegal migrants.This would be violating one of biggest promises of constitution, secularism, leaving behind the Muslims who cross the border.
A second change will be made to the time duration of applying for a citizenship by naturalisation, which refers to the legal act of acquiring citizenship of a country. Out of the many requirements needed to be fulfilled, one of them was that before applying for a citizenship, a foreigner must have resided in India or been in government service for at least 11 years. This particular bill would change for the religious groups mentioned above and the time duration to stay in India or be in government service will be reduced to six years.
The Act laid down conditions under which the citizenship of a foreigner or an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) would stand cancelled. This will take place if the registration has been through fraud or within five years of the registration, the person would be sent to prison for two or more years.
The bill will bring forth a fourth clause which will provide protection to a foreigner who is found violating any law in force in the country, including petty offences like parking in a no parking zone.
Implications of the bill
Take an example of Bangladeshis in Assam. According to the Assam Accord, 1985, Foreign nationals coming to Assam between January 1, 1966, to March 24, 1971, would be detected and debarred from voting for 10 years. The foreign nationals coming after March 24, 1971, will be detected and deported, which would be violated if this bill passes. The importance of the Accord in the state can be gauged from a simple fact. Assam is the only state with a separate department to implement an accord, with a Minister at its top. Not only that, it is feared that the influx of more Bangladeshis, irrespective of the fact whether they are Hindu or Muslim, means an increased share of the Bengali-speaking population in Assam. This will result in a shrinkage in Assamese speaking population, knowing that Assam was a state-created due to language differences.
Looking at the other side of the coin, the implementation of this act would be one step towards the BJP’s philosophy of dividing Hindus and Muslims. The Citizenship Amendment Legislation will be the final nail in Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) coffin. If it concedes, the AGP will have to say goodbye to regionalism for good.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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