Rules to obtain Indian citizenship has been amended for the sixth time in 2019 since the Citizenship Act was first passed in 1956. It has been amended previously in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2015 and recently in 2019.
In 1986, when P. Chidambaram, the then Home Minister made the amendment, there were a lot of voices criticizing the change of rule.
The amendment then declared that it is no longer just adequate to be born on Indian soil to become a citizen of India, but it is required that one of the two parents have to be an Indian citizen at the time of birth. As per the amendment, a child born in India to two non-Indian parents is not eligible to be an Indian citizen.
The rules for citizenship based on bloodline became more stringent afterwards to avoid influx of foreign nationals in the country.
The Three Amendments So Far
The summary of all three amendments are as below:
A person born in India before on or before 26th January 1950 but not after the second amendment (1st July 1987) is an Indian citizen.
A person born in India after 1st July 1987 and before the third amendment (3rd December 2004) and also whose one of the parents is an Indian citizen is eligible to become an Indian citizen.
Children born in India after the third amendment (3rd December 2004) need to have both of their parents as Indian citizens or one of the parents an Indian citizen and the other not an illegal immigrant.
Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 and 2019
Until 2015, illegal immigrants residing in India are not eligible for citizenship, when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party proposed to make the members of selective minority communities in three of the neighboring countries, who have migrated to India eligible for Indian citizenship.
The Indian Union follows the principle of right to citizenship based on blood relationship (Jus sanguinis translated to right of blood) in contrast to Jus soli, in which the child is a citizen of the state in which he/she is born and the citizenships of parents have no impact on the criteria deciding the citizenship of the child.
The recent CAB 2019 is bringing into picture the principle of Jus soli in which selective minority communities facing religious persecution in selected foreign states are eligible for Indian citizenship depending upon their period of stay in India with no regards to their parental bloodline.
India, which considers its history as one of the warmest and friendliest has never agreed to open doors to illegal immigrants. India has not ratified UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention.
The Refugee Convention emphasizes the right of people to seek asylum in neighboring countries when their lives are endangered in their home soil.
The doors are now being opened for selective communities. This proposed bill is a step forward in India’s status as a pro-immigrant asylum provider to communities facing persecution in foreign land.
The choice of communities and countires included in the propsed bill is claimed discriminatory by critics and opponents and have been painted an anti-muslim image.
The Delhi pact signed between the first prime ministers of India and Pakistan, respectively Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaqat Ali Khan professed ensuring the rights of religious minorities in India and Pakistan.
CAB 2019 is aiming at fulfilling the broken promise of ensuring minority rights in Pakistan, Bangladesh and also, Afghanistan.
The protests that began in Assam did not fear the bill to be Anti-muslim or anti-minority but to protect its cultural beliefs and resources from an overwhelming migrated Hindu population from Bangladesh.
This should be considered a xenophobic reaction of the indigenous community to protect themselves for immigrant population.
The protests that spread later across the rest of the country were staged after mass-mobilization of minority and left-leaning communities for political reasons.
Instead of viewing the recent amendment as divisive legislation that oppresses minorities, it needs to be perceived as a statute that offers shelter to the oppressed minorities in foreign land.
As the land of faith, our thoughts and actions should add value and meaning to the glorified stature of unity in diversity, that is peculiar to India.
Image Source: Vox