Chennai: Citizenship Amendment ACT (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) are the most used words in the past few days.
These three letter words have created so much confusion and chaos in the country leading to several protests. Even after clarifications issued by the government, things have not settled down. News Today presents a ready reckoner about them.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill was first introduced in 2016 to amend Citizenship Act of 1955. It was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, whose report was later submitted on 7 January 2019.
It was passed in the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 and Rajya Sabha on 11 December 2019 and became the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The Act seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
- The legislation applies to those who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion.
- The act relaxes the requirement of naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years.
- The cut-off date for citizenship is 31 December 2014, which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.
- The Act says that on acquiring citizenship such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and all legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.
- It also says people holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards – an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely – can lose their status if they violate local laws for major and minor offences and violations.
- The Act adds that the provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- It is against Muslims.
- Violates Article 14 which guarantees right to equality.
WHY NORTH EAST OBJECTS?
- The Act appears to violate the Assam Accord.
- The Assam Accord, signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi-led Central government and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), had fixed 24 March 1971, as the cutoff date for foreign immigrants. The Citizenship Amendment Act moved the cutoff date for six religions to 31 December 2014
- CAA does not consider Jews and atheists.
- The basis of clubbing Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh together and thereby excluding other (neighbouring) countries is unclear.
- Countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, which share a land border with India, have been excluded. The reason stated in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the Act is that these three countries constitutionally provide for a ‘state religion’; thus, the Act is to protect ‘religious minorities’ in these theocratic states.
- The above reasoning fails with respect to Bhutan, which is a neighbor and constitutionally a religious state with the official religion being Vajrayana Buddhism.
FOCUS ONLY ON RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
- On the classification of individuals, the Act provides benefits to sufferers of only one kind of persecution, i.e. religious persecution neglecting others.
- There is also a reduction in the residential requirement for naturalisation — from 11 years to five. The reasons for the chosen time frame has not been stated.
ARGUMENTS PUT FORWARD BY SUPPORTERS
- It is not against Muslims.
- The Ahmediyas and Rohingyas can still seek Indian citizenship through naturalisation.
- If a Shia Muslim is facing persecution and is in India seeking shelter, his case to continue to reside in India as a refugee shall be considered on its merits and circumstances.
- With regard to Balochi refugees, Balochistan has long struggled to be independent of Pakistan and including Balochis in the CAA could be perceived as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs.
- The CAA, therefore, does not exclude Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship.
- It is important to note that even minorities shall not be granted automatic citizenship. They would need to fulfill conditions specified in the Third Schedule to the Citizenship Act, 1955, namely, the good character requirement as well as physical residence in India
- The Act does not give a carte blanche to Hindus and Christians and Sikhs from other countries to come to India and get citizenship. Just these three countries. Why? Because each of these has been civilizationally tied with India.
- The circumstances in which they were partitioned from India have created a situation where Hindus and other minority population have been dwindling ever since the partition took place.
- Regarding including other countries in the neighbourhood the argument could be that we can deal with them separately if the need arises as we did in the case of persecuted Sri Lankan Tamils.
- Citizenship Amendment Act does not dilute the sanctity of the Assam Accord as far as the cut-off date of 24 March, 1971, stipulated for the detection/deportation of illegal immigrants is concerned. Citizenship Amendment Act is not Assam-centric. It is applicable to the whole country.
WHAT IS NPR?
- The NPR is a register of the usual residents of the country. It contains information collected at the local (village/sub-town), subdistrict, district, State and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
- According to the Citizenship Rules, 2003, the Centre can issue an order to prepare the NPR and create the NRC based on the data gathered in the NPR.
- In 2010, the NPR was created for the first time with the names of 119 crore residents of India. This data further was updated in 2015 by linking with biometric information from Aadhaar database.
- The NPR planned for 2020 will also include more details such as the place of birth of the parents, last place of residence and the serial number for official documents.
WHO IS USUAL RESIDENT OF INDIA?
- A usual resident is defined, for the purposes of the NPR, as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more, or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months.
- The law compulsorily seeks to register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card.
WHO WILL CONDUCT?
- The process of updating NPR will be carried out under the aegis of the Registrar General and ex-Officio Census Commissioner, India.
WHAT INFORMATION WILL BE COLLECTED?
- The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
- The database would contain demographic particulars such as name, relationship to head of household, educational qualification, occupation and so on.
- During the NPR, a respondent will not require to produce any document. As per a statement given by Home Minister Amit Shah, NPR information will be self-attested, that is, whatever information is provided by the respondent will be deemed correct and no documents or biometric would be required.
WHEN AND WHERE NPR WILL BE CONDUCTED?
- On 31 July 2019, the Registrar General of Citizen Registration had issued the notification to prepare and update the NPR.
- On 24 December 2019, the Union Cabinet approved Rs 3,941 crore for updating the NPR.
- The process of collecting information for NPR will start in April 2020 and will be completed by September.
- NPR will be conducted across India, except Assam as the State has already gone through the National Register of Citizens.
HOW IS NPR DIFFERENT THAN CENSUS?
- While the process of NPR and Census will begin simultaneously, the two databases are not same.
- The decennial census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on different characteristics of the people of India.
- While NPR only contains demographic information, more details are required for census like information on demography, economic activity, literacy and education, and housing and household amenities besides others.
- The census is the basis for reviewing the country’s progress in the past decade, monitoring the ongoing schemes of the government and plan for the future.
- The census provides detailed and authentic information on demography, economic activity, literacy and education, housing and household amenities, urbanisation, fertility and mortality, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, language, religion, migration, disability besides others.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NPR AND NRC
- NPR is a database of people living in India, citizens or not, but NRC is a database of Indian citizens.
- The NRC process demands proof of citizenship from the respondents.
- Those who found in want of the proof may face deportation or detention in long run. But in NPR, there is no need to provide any document.
WILL ANYONE LOSE CITIZENSHIP?
- ‘It is possible that some names are missed in the NPR, still their citizenship will not be revoked because this is not the process of NRC. The NRC is a different process. I want to make it clear that nobody will lose citizenship because of NPR,’ Amit Shah said.
- The Home Minister’s statement came amid controversy that NPR was the first step towards NRC. Several opposition leaders requested CMs to boycott the NPR process to avoid NRC. But the Home Minister has claimed that the two are not linked in any way.
- The Home Ministry officials have also said that there is no plan to use data collected during NPR to form the basis of NRC.
WHAT IS THE USE?
- The question remains that if the government has Census than why does it need NPR.
- The officials say that NPR data helps identify the demographics of actual residents who will be direct beneficiaries of any schemes launched in the area.
- Critics believe the Indian government will use the list to mark people as doubtful citizens after which they would be asked to prove their citizenship.
WHAT IS NRC?
NRC is the National Register of Citizens. The NRC identified illegal immigrants from Assam on the Supreme Court’s order. This was a State-specific exercise to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered.
The proposed Bill, which till now remains just a proposal, if implemented will target illegal immigrants in India. But Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh won’t be affected, if they claim they have arrived India after fleeing religious persecution. Which essentially means, if a nationwide NRC comes in as proposed, any illegal immigrant from other than Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will be affected.
WHY WAS IT IMPLEMENTED IN ASSAM?
- Assam, being a border State with unique problems of illegal immigration, had a register of citizens created for it in 1951 based on the 1951 census data.
- However, it was not maintained afterwards. The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 was then passed by the Parliament, creating a separate tribunal process for identifying illegal migrants in Assam.
- The Supreme Court of India struck it down as unconstitutional in 2005, after which the government of India agreed to update the Assam NRC.
HOW DID ASSAM DO IT?
- In Assam, one had to apply for inclusion. The NRC update was a mammoth exercise involving over 52,000 State government officials working for a prolonged period.
- Hundreds of NRC Seva Kendras (NSKs) were set up to process the documents under the apex court’s watch. An applicant had to pick any one of the documents under two heads — list A and list B.
- The final updated NRC for Assam, published on 31 August 2019, contained 3.1 crore names out of its population of 3.3 3.3, leaving out 19 applicants stateless.