Citizenship Amendment Bill
This is a guest blog by Lovish.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 plans to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to give citizenship to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan & Afghanistan who belong to Hindu , Sikh , Parsi , Buddhist ,Jain or Christian religions, but not Muslims.
Stated reason of the BJP Government is allowing refuge to minorities from being persecuted in the neighbouring countries. What is not stated is that it discriminates against Muslims, and is in agreement with the “Two-Nation Theory” which formed the basis of creation of Pakistan.
Relevant Background Knowledge
East Pakistan now Bangladesh is densely populated and experienced greater poverty as compared to West Bengal and Assam till the recent 5-7 years. Currently the GDP of Bangladesh is better than Bengal or Assam. Illegal immigration has been continuing into Bengal & Assam since post-independence with a major spike in 1971, when over 1 crore Bangladeshis, facing persecution entered India.
According to the statistics presented by the Yojana Magzine pubished in April , 2018 the population of the North –East region has increased from 44 lakhs in 1901 when Indian population was 29 crore(India +Pak+ Bangladesh)to 450 lakhs in 2011 when India(mainland India + Pak + Bangladesh) had population of 156 crore implying that Indian population increased 5.4 times compared to a 10 fold increase in the population in the North East region . This drastic increase in the population of North East region shows how illegal immigration has affected the demography of the region.
The rate of illegal immigration has now reduced greatly. Bangladesh would not accept the fact of illegal immigration & would resent any deportation. There is no understanding between India and Bangladesh on the subject. Bengal & Assam governments have been soft on the ethnically similar illegal immigrants because of vote bank politics. There has been resentment of indigenous people against the immigrants, particularly in Assam, leading to agitations and signing of the Assam-Accord between AASU & Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, which committed the Indian government to deport the illegal immigrants from Assam. The illegal immigrants are predominantly Bengali Muslims. BJP is a Hindu party & does get very few, if any, votes from Muslims. It suits BJP to deport Muslims & not people of other religions to pursue its brand of vote bank politics.
Understanding Citizenship Act 1955 & the Bill of 2016
The citizenship of India can be obtained by the following means, according to Citizenship Act , 1955 :
- Registration within 1 yr , if born to Indian parent outside India
- Incorporation of a territory within India.
This bill intends to reduce the time for obtaining citizenship through Naturalization from 11 yrs to 6 yrs.
BJP in its election manifesto of 2014 had promised to give citizenship to the Hindu refugees living in India.
The bill has faced stiff opposition in the North-East region of India by many organizations and political parties, some of which have been supporting the BJP because of the bill being discriminatory against Muslims (reason for divisive politics) and for reducing the naturalization period to 6 years. It is perceived that it will cause an influx of population in the region.
The bill is being analyzed by a Parliamentary Committee. It is unlikely to be enacted before the current government’s tenure ends in 2019. The bill has to be analyzed along with the NRC. One very important factor is Bangladesh. It is unlikely to accept any deportation because it continues to be densely populated and has just absorbed a massive influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar. Hasina government has been favourable to India and has helped India reduce the problem of terrorism in the region. Antagonizing Bangladesh would not be a wise idea for India. India should not be run on the principles of vote bank politics of either the Congress or the BJP. The bill should be revised to include Muslims as well as Rohingyas to prevent spread of divisive politics and establish India as a benevolent regional power. India should absorb the illegal migrants in due course & guard against further immigration strictly.