Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Undoing harms: about criticism on Citizenship Amendment Act


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Citizenship Amendment Act


The Centre tries to fend off criticism that its Citizenship (Amendment) Act excludes Muslims from its beneficial provisions. The stated objective is the fast-tracking of applications from minorities from three Muslim-majority neighborhood countries for citizenship by naturalisation. 

Undo the harm

  • Discussions to implement the CAA should not be confined to the proposed rules only.
  • The government must bring meaningful changes that would dispel fears gripping the minorities. 
  • This is achieved without violating the Constitution and its secular ideals.
  • Religion – Amend the Act to drop its religion-specific wording and make it explicit that the benefit would be open to all undocumented migrants who can prove persecution in their home countries. 
  • No reason to bar Muslims – For allowing a Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist or Parsi to apply for citizenship after staying in the country for six years, there is no need to bar Muslims from making a similar claim.
  • No mandate – It is only an enabling law and does not oblige the government to grant citizenship to anyone. Muslims and atheists have been persecuted in these and other countries by authorities and dominant sections.
  • Others – for others such as Sri Lankan refugees, a 2004 amendment to the citizenship law introduced a clause that ‘illegal migrants’ will not be eligible to apply for citizenship. 

Other issues

  • Illegal immigrants – The definition of ‘illegal migrants’ as those who arrived without valid travel documents includes refugees. 
  • CAA – CAA removes this ‘illegal’ tag from non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 
  • It will automatically enable any refugees to apply for citizenship, subject to the residential requirement. 

Way ahead

  • The general provision would do – a general enabling provision to allow a relaxation of the minimum residency requirement will serve the purpose of considering citizenship to any persecuted people. This would be non-discriminatory.
  • Refugee law – India should enact a refugee law wherein the right to live a life without fear or confinement can be protected.
  • Repatriation – If the fear is that people may seek permanent asylum, the UNHCR can work with them officially for their voluntary repatriation, and without rendering long-term refugees ineligible for applying for citizenship.
  • NPR – the government must end the process once the National Population Register is updated. It must give up the notion of citizenship register.
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