Before understanding the CAA, it is important to eliminate one misconception - the CAA is not a pan-India version of the NRC. These are two distinct concepts which will both be explained further in this analysis.
Is the Citizenship Amendment Act unconstitutional? Share your opinions on the CAA and NRC debate in India on this thread.
What Is The National Register of Citizens of India (NRC)?
The NRC was a national register that was prepared in 1951 specifically for the state of Assam, which contains details of the citizens of the state. The purpose of this register was for a nation-wide census process. In 2019, the process to update the NRC was carried out in Assam to identify and remove illegal immigrants from India, and deport them to Bangladesh. But why a register for just Assam? This is to maintain the diversity and unique linguistic culture of the state. The Citizens of Assam were required to prove their or their ancestors' citizenship prior to 1971 via documentation. Why 1971? This is because in March of that year, thousands of refugees came illegally to India, fleeing from Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) Liberation War, which ended in December of that year. On updation of the register, 19 lakh illegal migrants were excluded from the list, including a former Chief Minister of Assam.
So why was there violent unrest in Assam?
Contrary to widely held beliefs, protests did not take place because of the NRC, but because of the proposal of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now Act) in January 2019. There were protests and uproar in the streets of Assam due to two groups with different concerns - one being that the Bill would was an invitation for migrants from Bangladesh which would lead to a loss of political rights and culture of Assam, and the other being that the Bill was discriminatory towards Muslims, including Bengali Muslims in Assam.
NRC - Important Questions To Expect In The GD-PI-WAT Process
Here are five important questions around NRC that you can expect in your GD-PI-WAT rounds for MBA admissions:
- Why are the Assamese so angry about the NRC? Why are they out on the streets?
- We think that blocking the internet in times of protests and unrest is a breach of the freedom of speech and basic rights of Indian citizens. Do you hold the same opinion?
- Do you think something like the NRC should exist in a country with such diversity and confluence of cultures?
- Do you think a nation-wide NRC makes sense? How would you implement such a large scale process of identification of illegal migrants?
- What is the importance of the year 1971 in the whole NRC issue?/ What is the Assam Accord?
NRC - How To Understand The National Register of Citizens of India Better
The following are some resources you can refer to understand the National Register of Citizens of India from multiple perspectives:
- Assam NRC Explained - Add, delete, and what next?
- Explained - What exactly is the Assam NRC?
- Explained - What The NRC + CAA Means To You
- Why NRC Breaches Citizenship Act And Is Unconstitutional
- CAA and NRC: Those arguing that the two are discriminatory and tools of persecution must read up on Constitution and Indian law
What Is The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?
The Indian government, 8 years after independence, passed the Citizenship Act of 1955 which made illegal migrants from any country ineligible to obtain Indian citizenship. In 2019, the Citizenship Act was amended to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India's Muslim-majority neighboring countries - Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan - to get Indian citizenship.
So what is the Amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955?
The Citizenship Act of 1955 defines the eligibility for Indian citizenship, in that in order to become an Indian citizen, an individual must have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The amendment to this Act in 2019 relaxes this 11 year requirement to just 6 years, but only for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from the three aforementioned nations. This means that immigrants belonging to the mentioned religious backgrounds stand a chance to become Indian citizens, even if they do not possess the requisite documents. Additionally, they will not be deported for not having documents.
So why are people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act?
There are primarily two reasons why protesters are out on the streets across the country. The protests in Delhi, UP, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and others parts of the country (and abroad) that you might have heard about are primarily for the exclusion of Muslims from the CAA, and the fears of a nation-wide NRC to further single-out and target Muslims. However, in Assam, protesters are against the CAA as they see it as an invitation to non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh to enter Assam, thereby bringing with them the threat of alteration of the Assamese demographic and cultural uniqueness.
And what happened at Jamia Millia Islamia?
On December 15th, reports came in of public transportation being torched by certain elements of the 1500 protesters marching against CAA, and it was suspected by the police that the miscreants were students from the nearby Jamia University. After protesters clashed with the police, the police allegedly entered the University and assaulted faculty and students, including those not involved in protests and students studying in libraries.
Is anyone exempt from the Citizenship Amendment Act?
The CAA will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Additionally, the CAA will not be applicable to the Inner Line Permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873.
Also read - Protests Against CAA - Here's Where Various Political Parties Stand
CAA - Important Questions To Expect In The GD-PI-WAT Process
Here are five important questions around CAA that you can expect in your GD-PI-WAT rounds for MBA admissions:
- We don't think that protests, especially violent protests, actually solve issues. Do you think these mass protests will have any impact on what the government does?
- It makes sense - Muslims should live in countries where they are the majority. They themselves will be uncomfortable in a country with a Hindu majority. What do you think?
- What will be the economic impact of incoming migrants from other countries? Do you think it'll add to the workforce or add to the unemployment problem in India?
- What is the difference between a Bill and an Act? What is the procedure for a Bill to become an Act?
- Jamia Millia Islamia has 50% quota for Muslims. Is it justified for students of an institution that favors Muslim students to demand and protest for secularism in India?
CAA - How To Understand The Citizenship Amendment Act Better
The following are some resources you can refer to understand the Citizenship Amendment Act from multiple perspectives:
- What Is The Citizenship Amendment Act? NDTV Newsroom Live
- The Citizenship Test - Is It Constitutional? NDTV The Big Fight
- Hon'ble Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah's Interview On CAA, And The Government's View
- Wading through clutter of CAA, NRC, refugee-citizen —why BJP, Cong & AGP are exposed as hypocrites
- Why The Citizenship Amendment Act Is Justified - Former Cabinet Minister's Perspective
- Breaking down Narendra Modi’s offensive-defence, on NRC-CAA & message to Muslims
An important related topic is the situation regarding Uyghurs in China. It is recommended that you enter the interview prepared for questions on this contentious topic. Team InsideIIM will soon publish a detailed analysis of this topic.
Why Is The Citizenship Amendment Act Controversial?
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in the Center that recently saw a landslide victory in the 2019 General Elections, is viewed as a Hindu-nationalist party. Certain statements made by senior BJP leaders, such as this one by Home Minister Amit Shah and this one by young BJP MP Tejaswi Surya have brought the intentions of the Citizenship Amendment Act into question by the general public.
The main criticism by protesters is that the Act specifically targets Muslims and violates the principles of secularism upon which the foundation of the nation is based. It is also being judged as a hypocritical move by the BJP, as there is no provision for persecuted communities such as the Rohingyas (Myanmar), Hazaras (Afghanistan), Ahmediyyas (Pakistan) to apply for citizenship in India.
Legally, it is being argued that the CAA is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the citizens of India a right to equality. Additionally, it is said that assigning citizenship on the basis of religion is unconstitutional. Furthermore, protesters are demanding that the GoI provide an explanation and logical basis for the clubbing together and cherry picking of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan while ignoring other neighboring countries. Accusations of vote-bank politics and creation of religious silos have also been made.
One of the major criticisms by the general public is towards the proposal of a nation-wide NRC implementation, wherein Indian citizens across the country will be required to prove their citizenship in a fashion similar to that was required in Assam. Fears exist that such a process will be a pernicious attempt to single out and harass Muslims residing in India.
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the public that Indian Muslims "don't need to worry" about the CAA, and accused political parties of spreading lies to rally forces against the GoI and indulging in vote-bank politics. He further assured that the Act would have "no effect on citizens of India, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Buddhists."
Other Questions To Expect Around The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019
- Was the NRC updation process implemented in Assam to single out Muslims?
This does not appear to be the case, since out of the 19 lakh people excluded from the NRC, 13 lakhs were Hindus.
- Is the Citizenship Amendment Act unconstitutional?
50+ writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the legal validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act - petitions which are to be responded to by the Union government by the second week of January. This implies that the constitutional validity of the Act remains ambiguous, but will be resolved soon.
- How does a Bill become an Act?
The responsibility and main function of the Indian Parliament is to repeal old laws and introduce new ones for the betterment of the country. For such laws to be introduced, a bill needs to be introduced a minister (called a government bill) or by another member (called a private bill).
A Bill undergoes three readings in each House of Parliament. The First Reading consists of the Introduction of a Bill. The Second Reading consists of two stages: the ‘first stage’ consists of discussion on the principles of the Bill and its provisions and the ‘second stage’ signifies the clause-by clause consideration of the Bill as introduced or as reported by the Select/Joint Committee. The Third Reading refers to the discussion on the motion that the Bill (or the Bill as amended) be passed or returned (to the Lok Sabha, in the case of a Money Bill) wherein the arguments are based against or in favor of the Bill.
After a Bill has been passed by one House, it is sent to the other House where it goes through the same procedure. After a Bill has been passed by both Houses, it is presented to the President for his assent.
A Bill becomes an Act of Parliament after being passed by both the Houses of Parliament and assented to by the President. Read more details here.
What do you think of the Citizenship Amendment Act? Is a nation-wide NRC warranted? Should the government have undertaken a referendum process to ask citizens for their opinion on the right course(s) of action? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Which GD-PI-WAT topics would you like us to cover next? Let us know in the comments below! Share your opinions on the CAA and NRC debate in India on this thread!
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26 Dec 2019, 04.20 PMEdited