Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] Citizenship Amendment Bill

The CAB seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Buddhist, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians who come to India after facing religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
By IT's Video Summary Team
December 25, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Why Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was brought?
  • Does the CAB infringe on Article 14?
  • Why Muslim Minorities such as Ahmadiyyas are not considered under the bill?
  • The political aspects of the bill
  • Will CAB bring demographic change in the Northeast state?
  • The rights of the indigenous people
  • The need to bring change in the Citizenship Act 1955
  • What does Indian constitution say about it?
  • Conclusion

[RSTV The Big Picture] Citizenship Amendment Bill

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The Indian parliament has passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019 which seeks to grant citizenship to Non- Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they face religious persecution there. A large section of people, however, and organization in the Northeast have opposed the Act. The major political parties are opposing the Act claiming that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion.

Why Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was brought?

  • This is a part of a political promise that the current ruling party had made to give citizenship rights to all those minority communities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who are persecuted on the religious grounds and fled to India.
  • India does not have a law for refugees, so there is a problem for their categorization. The refuges are not citizens of India but living here for generations. Therefore, to recognize them, the current amendment bill has been brought.

Does the CAB infringe on Article 14?

  • Media reports constantly portray this bill as a bill which meant to give citizenship to Non- Muslims. This is very unfair characterization.
  • The definition that is being applied here is who or which community constitute a minority in the three countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh) that have been chosen for CAB. If one goes with the definition of minority then Non- Muslims can be considered as minority, which does not infringe on Article 14.

Why Muslim Minorities such as Ahmadiyya are not considered under the bill?

This should be looked into the context with Indian history.

  • With respect to classification based on religious persecution of certain minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it may be argued that there are other religious minorities in these countries, who face religious persecution and may have illegally migrated to India. For example, over the years, there have been reports of persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan (who are considered non-Muslims in that country), who are excluded from CAB.
  • India does not have a refugee law. India follows the standard operating procedure of 2014 which is primarily based on a clearance given by security agencies on the basis of (i) whether the particular group is persecuted in the country (ii) then the principle of Non-refoulement is applied (iii) then the threat to India’s security is analysed. Once these are answered in positive way, the agencies end up giving the clearance to them.
  • The two- nation theory also have to be analysed in the given context. As per the official report till now, including Lieutenant S K Sinha report (on illegal migration), there is a clear threat perception on the basis of what is perceived as an unfinished agenda. Therefore, the Government of India is within its right to apply its discretion in terms of which communities can enter in India.
  • Today, Ahmediyya faced persecution because of the sectarian violence in Pakistan reaching its peak. However, it during the creation of Pakistan, Ahmediyya voted in favor of being a part of Pakistan. Hence, if today they face persecution, India needs to be more careful as the North-East are facing the brunt of it.
  • The CAB must be looked in the context of a continnum of the existence of two-nation theory which continues to be alive and kicking in other parts of the world.

The political aspects of the bill

  • The National Register of Citizen (NRC) and CAB has to be seen together. If the NRC fails, then the CAB was required to balance the situation.
  • There are minorities which have been covered within the ambit of the bill but Jews, though very small community, which are coming back from Israel to Mizoram, are not covered within in the CAB. Bringing the bill has repercussions regarding assuaging the fears of the Northeastern communities, civil society, government etc.
  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is also need to be relooked. The government had given reassurance that the ILP will be extended too. So now it has to be seen whether relooking at ILP is going to be conducive for the political and socio-economic development of region or not.

Will CAB bring demographic change in the Northeast state?

  • The NRC and CAB are related. At one level both are completely different but at another level, both are related.
  • NRC is a process of excluding people who have come in and could not prove their citizenship on the basis of legal documents. Now, those people who couldn’t prove their citizenship on the basis of NRC cutoff date i.e. midnight of 24th March 1971, will get a chance to apply for a citizenship under CAB whose cut-off date is 31st December 2014 for being a minority community in three countries facing persecution.
  • Tripura is the largest state, perhaps, which saw the exodus or people settling down post-partition from then East Pakistan due to violence. The indigenous community of Tripura speaking a language called Kokborok, have completely been outnumbered by refugees. The Northeast communities has very small populations and they have genuine fears.

The rights of the indigenous people

  • This is most important aspect of the issue and the focal point of all violence and problems. India has to undertake a balancing act here i.e.
  1. Some of the constitutional promises made to the Northeast states with respect to their indigenous identity have to be taken into account.
  2. India has to balance the civilizational duties of people who are being persecuted in the neighbourhood.
  • We have to ask a question that do the people who are persecuted in our neighbourhood have the right to expect some kind of relief to India for the reason that the policy which is behind the persecution continues to be the policy behind the partition of India in 1947.
  • In case of Tripura, they have had legitimate fears from increasing population of a Bengali Hindus or Bengali Muslims.
  • One group is coming to India for better economic opportunities but there is also another group which is running away from religious persecution. Since, they could not enter Tripura, they started entering West Bengal and other parts of the country.
  • If the Government is stepping into this particular picture, it has to take into account these legitimate concerns of the Northeast states and the burden with the other states who are in better position to include them.
  • The NRC and CAB must go hand-in-hand for a reason that illegal immigrant should be excluded and should be provided relief from continuous persecution.

The need to bring change in the Citizenship Act 1955

  • Someone being targeted on the basis of religion is similar to insulting that person.
  • If a change to the Citizenship Act 1955 would have done and then introduced a religious element into it, it would have been deeply problematic.
  • However, the scope of CAB 2019 is limited to three specific countries which have a specific religious identity. The religious minority in these countries, who are being targeted because of its religion, is the reason for an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955.

What does Indian constitution say about it?

  • The argument of Article 14 that has always been put up against the CAB, then the concept under the Article 5- 11 has been misunderstood by the people.
  • Existing citizens and citizens under Article 5-11 cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their religion in the eyes of the law but vestation of citizenship is different from existing citizens. It means when someone chooses to enter in India, India has a right to impose certain conditions and discretionary filters in terms of granting status of citizenship to refugees.
  • Every country as a sovereign state, whether it’s a civilizational state or a nation state has the right to apply its security considerations before it applies the principles of Non –refoulement.


The scope of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 is limited to three countries which have a specific Islamic character. Therefore, when they choose to enter India, the government would apply certain filters on the basis of religion. This factors cannot be taken away altogether because if it is done, it won’t allow the person to tell the cause of the persecution.

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