Protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

Written by Kaushal B. Shah of Lords Universal College of Law.

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The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into effect to give citizenship to religious minorities like Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis who have illegally migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh to settle in India. The purpose to give citizenship is that they have been subjected to persecution owing to their religious affiliation.

The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by registration or naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications. For instance, if a person resides in India for a year and one of his parents is a former Indian citizen, he may apply for citizenship by registration.

The bill was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah i.e BJP led NDA government in both the houses of the Parliament in 2016 and was latter referred to Joint Parliamentary Committee. In 2019 the bill was again tabled in Parliament and was approved finally by Members of the Parliament.

In Lok Sabha, 311 votes were cast in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and 80 votes were cast against it. Even as violent public protests broke out in the north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura over opposition to the bill, it passed the Rajya Sabha test as 125 votes were in favour of the bill and 105 against the bill. Finally, the Presidential assent/nod to the bill was given and it became an Act.

The main impact on our economy of implementing this Act is that though these citizens are illegal migrants but they are being used by our enemy nation’s like Pakistan for spreading terror and disturbing our peace and harmony. Since they are present in very large number, they can have huge impact on our nation.

The justification of opposing the Act by the netizens of this country is basically unknown to many of us but thinking in general sense it means that these illegal migrants are jobless and many live in shelter camps, without any identity, so they will completely harm and adversely affect our citizens, violate the fundamental rights and even attack or loot at them for resources like food, land, money etc. Many are just living here and following ideology of their native place or country from where they came. So they are threat not only to our tradition, culture, identity but also to the country as a whole.

As soon as the bill received its Presidential nod and it became a law then a wide uproar and protest among the public from various parts of the country were seen. Some of them were:

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), thirty ethnic organizations have played a prominent part in the protest. A section of students of the Madras University were staging protest against the amended citizenship law inside the varsity’s campus. Students of various colleges, including the New college here and another in Tiruchirappalli, staged protest in their campuses. Besides, a section of students held a protest on the state-run Bharathiyar varsity campus in Cqsdfoimbatore.Various other universities like Aligarh Muslim University & Jamia University have also started to protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

The bill has been protested mainly because it is against the interest of religious minority communities like Muslims & Jews. Their interest has not been taken into consideration by the BJP government due to such illegal migrants in large number entering into the territory of India. The netizens have also been protesting so as not to cause the rohingiya refugees belonging to Myanmar, Bangladesh etc. to enter and settle in any parts of India.  As also such hugh minority community have migrated only in India and not anywhere else like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladeh etc which not only creates heavy backlog on the economy but also creates a type of unstability. The Preamble forms the core structure of the constitution of India and one of the significant pillar of this structure is “Secularism”. The bill stands forth against this very pillar of the constitution of India, so it has created a wide outrage among the masses. The bill has been criticised because it makes two classifications: first, a classification based on religion by excluding Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the ambit of illegal immigrants and secondly, a classification based on country, by restricting the benefit of acquiring citizenship through naturalization to minority immigrants only from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But it must be noted that there has been no reasonable justification. So this might be the reason of protesting across the country.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is being opposed by opposition parties and many civil right activists on the ground that it discriminates against Muslims & Jews. They say that such discrimination is unconstitutional under Article 14. Article 14 is one of the cornerstones of the constitution. It states, “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Equality before law means the state will treat every class of persons without discrimination. The equal protection of law means the state will not frame laws or rules that discriminate between two persons. Rights under Article 14 are absolute. These two fundamental rights are not exclusive to the citizens of India but to “any person”. In this backdrop, the opposition parties and activists have accused the BJP of signalling out the Muslims to further its “hidden agenda”.

The PIL has been filed in the Supreme court in order to provide justice to those citizens whose peace and harmony has been disturbed and so also to restore the faith in the constitution, to provide justice to those foreigners who have been denied citizens due to the immigration rules even though their forefathers have been residing in India. The Supreme court will also examine the constitutional validity of this Act.

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