What is Citizenship Amendment Bill?

Non-Muslim refugees from different minority communities like Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian who have come from the neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31st, 2014 became accustomed to religious discrimination there will not be treated as illegal migrants.

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Lok Sabha introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 on December 10th 12:11 a.m. IST in Parliament that solicits to grant India nationality to these refugees. The major concern behind opposing the bill was that the anthropology of Northeast India will variate with the inundation of asylum seekers of Bangladesh. The ordinance applies to those people who were involuntarily migrated in India to seek shelter due to discrimination on the grounds of religion. Its object is to safeguard such refugees from litigations of illegal migration.

In the Bill, migrants have also been alleviated the requisite of residence in India from 11 years to six years. This gesticulation has been accounted for declaring the protection of minority refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. To provide legal aid for citizenship, the Bill will make amendments to the Citizenship Act 1955.

According to the opposition parties, this is a contravention of Article 14 of the Constitution which enounces the right to equality. Illegal migrants cannot obtain Indian citizenship as per the Citizenship Act, 1955. The refugees who have gained access to the Indian territory without any valid travel documents like passports and visas or have entered in India with valid documents but have been settled here longer than the period mentioned therein are observed as the illegitimate immigrants under this law.

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Provisions for Illegal Migrants

As stated in the Citizenship Act, 1955, illegitimate immigrants can either be confined to a prison or will be deported to their respective countries under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passports Act, 1920. In 2015 and 2016, posterior to redrafting in the laws of 1920 and 1946, the central government had liberated Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians to live in India. It states that the immigrants belonging to these communities living in India without any valid document will neither be imprisoned nor be deported from the country. The religious families who had entered in India on or before 31st December 2014 have been provided with an exemption. 

This Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has become a source of serious controversy for the Northeast state Assam. The Assamese speaking people assume that they will become the splinter group with the entry of newly legitimated Bengali speaking illegal Hindu and Muslim immigrants. They fear that this law will assist the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who have inhabited in large numbers across the region. In 2016, the bill was initiated in Lok Sabha but it was not cleared in Rajya Sabha under Modi government and is voided. Later, PM Modi and BJP President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah restated that Modi government had pledged to pass this bill. 

How important is Citizenship Amendment Bill?

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Citizenship Amendment Bill has become prerequisite for the people who are not registered under NRC (National Register of Citizens of India). Over 19 lakh people are going to reap benefits under this act. According to the BJP, if refugee certificate issued prior to 1971 will not be accepted, then the big number of Bengali Hindu, Koch Rajbonshi and Buddhist people will be excluded from final NRC. Critics say that the bill is part of a BJP agenda to disparage Muslims. The 64-year old Indian Citizenship Law presently constrains the illegitimate immigrants from becoming Indian citizens. The desire to provide a safe shelter to the religious minorities who have faced a lot of discrimination and violence in the neighbouring countries has become the need of the hour. 

What happens to the NRC?

National Register of Citizens is a register which contains names of every legitimate Indian citizen. This register is being refurbished in Assam to identify the illegal immigrants and deport them to their country of origin. But now, the interpretation of illegal migrants have changed. 

Though the key opposition parties like the Congress and Trinamool Congress have severely criticised the bill, the bill is likely to be passed in Rajya Sabha. According to the Union Minister Prakash Javedkar at the Cabinet briefing, the government has taken care of the interests of everyone and ‘the interest of India’. When he was asked about the protests by different groups in northeastern states, he said that people will welcome it as it is in the interest of the nation. 

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