UNREST IN INDIA: REAL OR IMAGINARY

In the last few days there has been unrest in several parts of India and more particularly in Delhi. The reason seems to be confusion about The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The protests seem to be on the issue of being an Indian Muslim. It seems that people now think that the CAA and NRC will deny citizenship to Indian Muslims who are already citizens of India or that it is against Indian Muslims. The fallacy and outcry lie in failing to understand that CAA and NRC are two totally distinct laws and have different applications.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act grants citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis – from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who had arrived in India before 31st December, 2014. The legislation applies to those who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”.

It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration from the neighboring countries. The requirement to stay in India for those belonging to any of these 6 religions for at least 11 years before applying for Indian citizenship has been reduced to five years.

Indian citizenship, under present law, is given either to those born in India or if they have resided in the country for a minimum of 11 years.

The NRC has the object of detecting illegal immigrants regardless of their caste, creed or religion in the territory of Assam. This is in keeping with Supreme Court Order that the NRC will help to identify and detain illegal immigrants from living in the State and thereby altering the ethnic uniqueness of Assam. It seeks to protect the State from infiltration of illegal immigrants.

The CAA is a nationwide Act and is not against Muslims. While the CAA makes it easier for non-Muslims from Muslim Countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to become citizens of India, it does-not in any manner take away the citizenships of Indian Muslims. All it does to give protection to certain non-Muslims refugees, who have taken shelter in India on or before 31st December, 2014.

If people understood the difference between CAA and NRC the protests would end. Because of this confusion Section 144 CrPC has been imposed in several parts of Delhi to prevent probable clashes. What protesters must understand is that Indian Muslim citizens are safe in the Country if they have been residing in India for the last several years.

What the Government is trying to do is to flush out illegal immigrants who are adding to India’s 1.3 billion population. It does-not seek to persecute or ostracize any particular community as misunderstood by the protestors. In a time like this Indians should co-operate with the Government as its in the larger interest of the Country.

SUSHILA RAM

GOVIND GUPTA

ADVOCATE

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