Context: Effects of passage of of Citizenship Amendment Bill on the diplomatic relations.
More in news:
- The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 9th December and passed on the same day. The bill also got passed in Rajya Sabha on 11th December.
Citizenship in India:
- In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- The Act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods – by birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalisation (extended residence in India) and by incorporation of territory into India.
Can illegal migrants acquire citizenship?
- An illegal migrant is prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship.
- An illegal immigrant is a foreigner who either enters India illegally, i.e., without valid travel documents, like a visa and passport, or enters India legally, but stays beyond the time period permitted in their travel documents.
- An illegal migrant can be prosecuted in India and deported or imprisoned.
- Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
- The 1946 and the 1920 Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.
- In September 2015 and July 2016, the central government exempted certain groups of illegal migrants from being imprisoned or deported. These are illegal migrants who came into India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan on or before December 31, 2014, and belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian religious communities.
Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019:
- The 2019 Bill seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision.
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the area covered under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
- This effectively means that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram along with almost whole of Meghalaya and parts of Assam and Tripura would stay out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
- Besides, the citizenship bill also makes amendments to provisions related to the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.
- To obtain citizenship by naturalisation, one of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or have been in service of the central government for at least 11 years before applying for citizenship.
- The Bill creates an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with regard to this qualification. For these groups of persons, the 11 years’ requirement will be reduced to five years.
- The 1955 Act provides that the central government may cancel the registration of OCIs on various grounds. The Bill adds one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law notified by the central government. It further states that orders for cancellation of OCI should not be passed till the cardholder is given an opportunity to be heard.
Effects of the Bill on the diplomatic relations:
- The UN is closely analysing the possible consequences of India’s amended Citizenship Act. The spokesperson insisted that the world body has its basic principles, including those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and expect those to be upheld.
- There is little debate today that the Bangladesh-India partnership has greatly benefited from Hasina’s patronage of goodwill-generating initiatives. Bangladesh has also shown an unfettered commitment to India’s national security by showing zero-tolerance for all forms of terrorism.
- However, recent political developments within India could threaten the friendship that Bangladesh has nurtured, maintained and remains committed to. More specifically, the Government of India’s decision to go ahead with the passing of the CAB will now aid the political implementation of the NRC as it gives special status to Hindus and people belonging to other religions but not to Muslims.
- Though the passage of the CAB was immediately followed by the cancellation of official visits by Bangladesh’s home minister and foreign minister, both sides still officially maintain that the NRC is India’s internal issue.
- Japan PM Shinzo Abe’s India Visit Postponed Amid Protests Over Citizenship Act. Guwahati, the planned venue for a summit between Abe and PM Modi, has been engulfed in violent protests over the CAB.
- The CAB and the NRC are instruments that try to facilitate the reconfiguration of India’s social fabric into two broad identities Hindus and the rest, which serves only the narrow interests of the ruling coalition in Delhi, especially because it relies on religious identity-based jingoism as a political tool. Hence, the CAB and the NRC will deepen the communal divide that remains ever-present within the social fabric of South Asia.
- Bilateral ties that overcame such strong historic impediments deserve respect, as they were created with hard work, meticulous political strategies, good intent and visionary leadership. Any political strategy that undermines such accomplishments merits reconsideration. Ties with Bangladesh, in particular, need careful consideration.
- There is little doubt that one cannot ensure geopolitical stability, security and social harmony by legitimising a political strategy that aims to turn a democracy into a communal, majoritarian political order, particularly when the Subcontinent has navigated a deeply divisive past, culminating in a profound distrust for one’s neighbour.