India Decides To Implement Controversial Citizenship Law – OpEd


India’s Home Ministry notifies rules for implementation of citizenship law CAA

India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by Parliament in December 2019, but was delayed as a result of protests in several parts of the country against it.

In the rundown to the Indian parliament election this summer, the country’s Hindu nationalist government on Monday announced  implementation of the controversial CAA.

This provides for granting citizenship to undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came to India before December 31, 2014, thus making religion a factor for securing citizenship on migration from countries once part of British India.

With the CAA rules being issued, the Hindu nationalist BJP government will now start granting Indian nationality to ‘persecuted’ non-Muslim migrants — Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians — from the three countries. 

This is likely to complicate India’s relationship with its Muslim-predominant neighbors Pakistan and Bangladesh, the former already hostile but the latter a close friend so far. Afghanistan is not a neighbor with a land or sea border but its present hardline Islamist Taliban rulers see Hindu-dominant India as closer to the secular regime preceding it. India has not reopened its embassy in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power.

As mentioned above, the CAA was passed in December 2019 and subsequently got the prime minister’s assent but there were protests in several parts of the country against it. As such, the law could not come into effect as rules had not been notified till now.

“These rules, called the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024 will enable the persons eligible under CAA-2019 to apply for the grant of Indian citizenship,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said on Monday. 

“The applications will be submitted in a completely online mode for which a web portal has been provided,” the spokesperson added.

According to the Manual on Parliamentary Work, the rules for any legislation should be framed within six months of presidential assent or the government has to seek an extension from the Committees on Subordinate Legislation in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Since 2020, the Home Ministry has been taking extensions at regular intervals from the parliamentary committee for framing the rules.

No document will be sought from the applicants, an official said.

Over 100 people lost their lives during the anti-CAA protests or police action.

On December 27, 2023, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said that no one can stop the implementation of the CAA as it is the law of the land and accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of misleading people on the issue.

Addressing a party meeting in Kolkata, Shah said it is the BJP’s commitment to implement the CAA.

The TMC, led by Mamata Banerjee, has been opposing the CAA since the beginning.

The promise of implementing the controversial CAA was a major poll plank of the BJP in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in West Bengal.

Indian Muslim leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi have cried foul saying the CAA was ‘a grave injustice towards Muslims’.

Opposition parties have attacked CAA as an attempt to push the politics of religious polarisation that they say is the trademark of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC and Reuters correspondent and author of books on South Asian conflicts.

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