Citizenship and Related Issues

Aug, 06, 2018

[op-ed snap] Citizenship and compassion


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Refugee crisis in India as well as other parts of the world and dealing with it


NRC updation in Assam

  1. The current situation in Assam seems like a nightmare, a warning about the internal contradictions of democracy
  2. It is a warning that the 19th century ideas of democracy as electoral-ism and the notion of the nation-state as a fetishism of borders may be inappropriate as imaginations for the 21st century
  3. It is a caution that governance and politics are full of ironies and paradoxes and that the best of intentions might lead to the worst consequences
  4. Inherent in it is the banalisation of evil that can take place when suffering on a large scale gets reduced to a cost-benefit scenario

History of citizen registers

  1. The politics of citizens’ registers underlines the problem of migratory politics, refracted through the layered memories of many historical events
  2. It began in the colonial era when the British attempted to import labour for the plantations
  3. Major displacements like Partition and the Bangladesh war added to a huge “illegal” population

What’s the issue with current NRC updation?

  1. A register which began as a routine, even clinical exercise now acquires a Machiavellian shadow
  2. In this tussle between the nation-state and an open democracy, the enclosure and the panopticon as mediums of control are at odds with the idea of the commons and the hospitality of the community
  3. Technocratic solutions cannot hide the absence of human and historical understanding
  4. The handling and management of large populations create a problem of ethics. Assam raises the question of both triage and exterminism
  5. The dispensability and disposability of large populations confronts India on a large scale

Handling such situations

  1. One cannot handle such situations merely through law
  2. One needs generosity, hospitality and compassion
  3. One needs to understand that once our civics accepts the detention centre and the internment camp as routine, we are creating gulags of the mind, where one can begin with an ordinary act of classification and erase a people
  4. Indian democracy has to face the genocidal prospect inherent both in its technocratic sense of governance and in the anxieties that electoralism creates

Security vs Nation state paradigm

  1. The shift from citizenship to a preoccupation with security unfolds a different paradigm of thought
  2. Nation-state and citizenship as encompassing entities offer different ideas of order and control
  3. Security is a panopticon-ising notion, while citizenship is a caring, even protective, one
  4. Security operates on the grids of surveillance, scrutiny and separation
  5. Citizenship is a more hospitable notion of initiating the other into a system

Way Forward

  1. We need to go back and look at our Constitution and reread notions of the border, the very idea of citizenship
  2. We need to go beyond hard definitions and look at the penumbra of these concepts
  3. We need to think of a nation-state with permeable borders and a fluid sense of citizenship which makes life more hopeful for the refugee
Jul, 31, 2018

The citizenry test: Assam NRC explained


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Register of Citizens (NRC), Citizenship Act, 1955, Assam Accord, 1985

Mains level: Updation of NRC and its implications on demography as well as security situation of Assam as well as other neighbouring states


Draft NRC released

  1. The draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on 30 July
  2. It includes only those able to prove they were in Assam before 1971

Why is NRC being updated in Assam?

  1. Officially, the NRC process will address the issue of illegal migrants, specifically from Bangladesh
  2. The National Register of Citizens was first published in 1951 to record citizens, their houses and holdings
  3. Updating the NRC to root out foreigners was a demand during the Assam Agitation (1979-1985)

Who is a citizen in Assam?

  1. The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord  for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens
  2. Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported

Why is March 24, 1971 the cut-off date?

  1. There have been several waves of migration to Assam from Bangladesh, but the biggest was in March 1971 when the Pakistan army crackdown forced many to flee to India
  2. The Assam Accord of 1985 that ended the six-year anti-foreigners’ agitation decided upon the midnight of March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date

Who is a D-voter?

  1. Short for ‘dubious’ or ‘doubtful, this is a category of voters disenfranchised by the government for alleged lack of proper citizenship documents

Who is a declared foreigner?

  1. D-voters are tried by special tribunals under the Foreigners’ Act
  2. If they fail to defend their citizenship claim they are marked as declared foreigners and sent to any of six detention camps, which are within jails for criminals, for deportation

What happens to the excluded 40 lakh?

  1. They will have to file for claims and objections and submit relevant documents for re-verification
  2. The documents will be verified and accepted or rejected for the final NRC to be published on an unspecified date
  3. The cases of those left out of the final NRC will be heard in the Foreigners’ Tribunals, after which applicants can approach the High Court
Jun, 28, 2018

[op-ed snap] Citizens, non-citizens, minorities


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, National Register of Citizens

Mains level: NRC updation in Assam and what repurscussions it can have on other parts of India as well as South Asia


Updating of the National Register of Citizens

  1. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is intended to be supportive of religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan
  2. But members of those communities living in the three countries do not seem to welcome the proposed amendment
  3. There are fears that the proposed amendment would make the communities it represents more insecure, not less
  4. It would embolden political forces that would like to evict them from their lands and force them to leave Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and cross into India

Minority dynamics in South Asia

  1. Developments in India have long affected the plight of minorities across the border
  2. The suspicion of dual loyalty has been a persistent source of anxiety and fear for minority communities in the Subcontinent
  3. There are many instances of communal conflict in India creating a backlash against minorities in Bangladesh

What is the contention about?

  1. People whose names will not appear in the final NRC in Assam are likely to face a gloomy future
  2. They have long been subjects of suspicion of being false nationals
  3. The NRC will now officially bestow on them the status of stateless citizens or of non-citizens with no rights

Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950

  1. It was a bilateral agreement between the two governments on the security and the well-being of minorities
  2. Its main goal was to reassure “minority populations of their security within the country and to discourage them from migrating”
  3. The Pact even provided an institutional infrastructure — including provincial and district minority boards — to address the concerns of threatened minorities
  4. Thanks to this Pact, large numbers of minority migrants who had crossed the Partition’s border because of communal violence felt encouraged to return to their homes on the other side

History of minority safeguards

  1. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 — conventionally thought of as the foundational event of the modern international state system — included safeguards for religious minorities
  2. Concluding minority treaties was the instrument of choice for the protection of minorities during the early part of the 20th century when the unraveling of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman empires had led to the emergence of a number of new minority situations in the reconfigured political space
  3. In the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the great powers assigned the task of enforcing the minority protection clauses of those treaties to the League of Nations
  4. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rights of minority communities have featured in a number of bilateral agreements
  5. The European Union also emphasizes the bilateral mode of addressing tensions arising out of the minority question

Way Forward

  1. There is an illusion of unilateralism that marks Indian policy right now
  2. Abandoning the illusion of unilateralism may be the first step in creating a durable regime of minority protection in the subcontinent
May, 08, 2018

Hearing on Citizenship Bill begins in Assam amid protests


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Joint Parliamentary Committee, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Assam Accord of 1985

Mains level: Issue of illegal migration in Assam and other areas and its effects on economy and security of country


Granting citizenship to migrants

  1. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 began its hearing in Assam
  2. The bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims who have fled persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

Violation of Assam Accord

  1. Indigenous groups in Assam view this as a move to legitimize Hindus who have migrated from Bangladesh after 1971
  2. They also see it as a violation of the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985


Assam Accord of 1985

  1. The Assam Accord was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985
  2. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979
  3. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord
  4. The accord prescribes deportation for everyone who entered the state illegally after the midnight of March 24, 1971
Feb, 06, 2018

New Constitution Bench to examine Citizenship Act


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Citizenship Act 1955, Assam Accord, Article 29(1) of Constitution

Mains level: Important provisions of Citizenship Act


Examining cut-off date for awarding citizenship

  1. The Supreme Court decided to refer to a fresh Constitution Bench pleas to examine the validity of various aspects of a provision of the Citizenship Act 1955
  2. This includes the cut-off date for awarding citizenship to Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam
  3. Section 6A of the Act relates to provisions for citizenship of people covered by the Assam Accord

Questioning validity of Section 6A of act

  1. SC bench will examine whether Section 6A violates the Articles of the Constitution by diluting the political rights of residents of Assam
  2. The scope of the fundamental right contained in Article 29(1), relating to the right to conserve a distinct language, script or culture, and also about the meaning of expressions ‘culture’ and ‘conserve’ will also be examined


Assam Accord

  1. The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985
  2. Some of the key demands of the movement were:
  • All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote
  • Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship

3. Though the accord brought an end to the agitation, some of the key clauses are yet to be implemented

Jan, 02, 2018

One register to count them all — how the NRC fares

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Register of Citizens, 1985 Assam Accord

Mains level: Issue of migrants creating problems in various states across India


National Register of Citizens (NRC) of the State updated in Assam

  1. Millions of people in Assam on Sunday lived through the “the stroke of midnight” as the Assam government published the first draft of an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) of the State
  2. NRC is a process by which a bona fide Indian citizen can be distinguished from a foreigner
  3. Assam is the only state to have its own register of citizens

Why update NRC in Assam?

  1. The NRC is being updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals, who may have illegally entered the State after the midnight of March 24, 1971, the cut-off date
  2. This date was originally agreed to in the 1985 Assam Accord, signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi government and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU)
  3. In 2005, another agreement was signed between the Centre, the then Tarun Gogoi government in Assam and the AASU where it was decided to update the NRC that was first published after the Census data of 1951 in post-Partition India

Is the NRC a court-mandated exercise?

  1. The publication of the first draft of the NRC by December 31, 2017, was ordered by the Supreme Court
  2. The top court has been hearing this case since July 2009 when Assam Public Works moved court to intervene in detecting and deporting Bangladeshis

Violence expected

  1. The security challenge will emerge only when the process of updating the NRC gets completed and a large number of people are left out
Dec, 01, 2016

National anthem must be played before screening of films: Supreme Court

  1. What: The SC has ordered all cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films
  2. It said that all present must “stand up in respect” till the anthem ended
  3. Furthermore, it said the practice would “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”
  4. Cinema halls should also display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played
  5. The Bench said it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951
  6. In its interim order, the SC issued a complete ban on the commercial exploitation of the national anthem and the flag
  7. It banned dramatisation of the anthem or it to be used in any part of any variety shows or for entertainment purposes
  8. The court banned the display of the national anthem on any undesirable or disgraceful places
  9. It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem
  10. The SC was hearing a plea to clarify when the national anthem should be sung
  11. Background: The SC’s decision to consider this PIL followed after a wheelchair-bound man was assaulted by a couple at a cinema hall in Panaji for not standing up during the rendition of the anthem


The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 is an Act of the Parliament of India which prohibits desecration of or insult to the country’s national symbols, including

  1. The National Flag,
  2. The Constitution,
  3. Indian map and
  4. The National Anthem.

Significant amendments were added in 2003 and 2005, which prohibited many previously common uses of the flag, such as draping it over a podium during a speech, using it as decoration, or incorporating it into clothing designs.


Any SC judgment is important from the mains perspective. Note the judgment down, it will be useful for questions on patriotism, nationalism etc.

Nov, 28, 2016

[op-ed snap] Who can become an Indian citizen?

  1. Context: Partition’s long shadow is evident on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to introduce a religious distinction in the law. It must be debated
  2. Highlights of the bill:
  3. The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
  4. Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.
  5. The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
  6. The Bill relaxes this 11 year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.
  7. Issue #1: The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.
  8. Issue #2: The Bill allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences!

Note: Keep a note of these two issues, leave the rest. This edit was written with a regional outlook (specifically that of Assam) and we have removed those parts. It’s better that we keep in mind the universal issues and challenges.

Oct, 01, 2016

Citizenship amendment bill communally motivated: Activists

  1. Context: Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
  2. Proposed amendment: (to the Citizenship Act, 1955) To grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Muslim majority countries
  3. This includes Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan
  4. Criticism: Civil Society groups- it is a communally motivated humanitarianism
  5. How? By seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religious denomination, it is blatantly in violation of the constitution

Discuss: What are the objectives of recently introduced Bill to amend certain provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955? Point out the lacunae in the bill?

Jul, 16, 2016

Citizenship Act to be amended soon

  1. News: The government is likely to introduce a Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955
  2. Amendment: Definition of “illegal migrants” to be changed that will enable the government to grant citizenship to minorities
  3. The minorities aimed are at mostly Hindus, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have fled their country fearing religious persecution
  4. Context: The Union Cabinet recently gave its approval to empower district magistrates to allow certain facilities for people staying on Long Term Visa (LTV) in India
  5. Facilities covered include purchase of property, issue of driving licence and self-employment
Jun, 07, 2016

Pakistani Sindhi Hindus to get Indian citizenship

  1. Context: Nearly 35,000 Sindhis from Pakistan were living as refugees in M.P.
  2. The Centre will set up a 4-day camp here to grant Indian citizenship to those who migrated to India from Pakistan between 1971 and 2009
  3. The application process is divided into three categories to bucket them according to their year of migeration
Mar, 19, 2016

OCI cards enough to visit India

  1. News: Indian diaspora will no longer have to get a visa affixed on their passports every time they travel to India
  2. Context: Govt has decided that since categories Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) were merged last yr
  3. OCI card will suffice to enter the country and hence would require no VISA
  4. Old Practice: Every OCI card holder required to get a visa affixed from Indian High Commission whenever they planned a visit to India.
  5. Amendment: Govt amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 last yr and a notification was issued to merge the 2 cards
  6. Importance: Move would also help create a database of the Indian diaspora as a consolidated figure is not present with the govt
Aug, 06, 2015

Citizenship soon for those who fled religious persecution

Aug, 05, 2015

Citizenship for those who fled for religious persecution

May, 18, 2015

Give priority to updating of citizens register: ULFA

May, 11, 2015

Govt. set to grant citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh

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