Government announces implementation of CAA ahead of Lok Sabha elections

Ahead of the Lok Sabha election, the Centre on Monday announced the implementation of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 for granting citizenship to undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came to India before December 31, 2014.
PM Modi
PM Modi

New Delhi | The Centre on Monday implemented the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, notifying the rules four years after the contentious law was passed by Parliament to fast-track citizenship for undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came to India before December 31, 2014.

With the unveiling of the rules that came days ahead of the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, the Modi government will now start granting Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim migrants -- Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians -- from the three countries. The rules comes into force with immediate effect, according to a Gazette notification.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has delivered on another commitment and realised the promise of the makers of the Constitution.

Official sources said CAA-2019 is a law to give citizenship and will not take away citizenship of any Indian irrespective of their religion, adding it is only for those who have suffered persecution for years and have no other shelter in the world except India.

Many misconceptions have been spread regarding the CAA, they said.

The CAA secured Parliament's approval in December 2019 and subsequently got the President's assent but there were protests in several parts of the country against it, with many opposition parties speaking out against the law calling it "discriminatory". Over 100 people lost their lives during the anti-CAA protests or police action.

"These rules will now enable minorities persecuted on religious grounds in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to acquire citizenship in our nation.

"With this notification, PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji has delivered on another commitment and realised the promise of the makers of our Constitution to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians living in those countries," Minister Shah said on X.

A Home Ministry spokesperson said the applications will be submitted in a completely online mode for which a web portal has been provided. The law could not come into effect as rules had not been notified till now.

While the Congress and other opposition parties slammed the government's step, alleging the new law is designed to polarise the coming Lok Sabha elections, especially in West Bengal and Assam, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called it historic and a "humanitarian decision".

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh alleged that the announcement is yet another attempt to "manage the headlines" after the Supreme Court's strictures on Monday on the electoral bonds issue.

"After seeking nine extensions for the notification of the rules, the timing right before the elections is evidently designed to polarise the elections, especially in West Bengal and Assam," he said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinaray Vijayan described the CAA as a communally divisive law and asserted that it will not be implemented in the southern state.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the Centre’s move is against the country and that it was "dirty politics" of the BJP to make poor people from neighbouring countries its vote bank in India.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she would fiercely oppose the CAA if she found it to be discriminatory against groups of people living in India and if it curtailed their existing citizenship rights in any manner.

The Trinamool Congress supremo was talking to reporters just minutes before the CAA rules were officially notified by the Centre,

West Bengal's Matua community celebrated the implementation of the citizenship law at the headquarters of the sect at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas district, claiming it to be their “second independence day”.

Matuas, originally from East Pakistan, are a weaker section of Hindus who migrated to India during the Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh.

The community, with an estimated population of three million in the state, can tilt the scales in favour of a political party in more than 30 assembly seats in Nadia, and North and South 24 Parganas districts bordering Bangladesh.

Pakistani Hindu refugees, who have been living a life of uncertainty, welcomed the government's step.

Some of the refugees residing in Delhi said they were elated and that they "will finally be called Indian citizens".

Celebrations also erupted in the Majnu ka Tilla area where they mostly live.

The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and 30 indigenous organisations burnt copies of the CAA in different parts of Assam, including Guwahati, Barpeta, Lakhimpur, Nalbari, Dibrugarh and Tezpur.

The 16-party United Opposition Forum, Assam, (UOFA) announced a statewide hartal on Tuesday, besides taking up other agitational programmes in a phased manner.

"We will continue with our non-violent, peaceful, democratic movement against CAA. Alongside, we will also continue our legal fight," AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharjya told PTI.

Bhattacharjya asserted that the indigenous people of Assam and North-East will never accept CAA.

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.

Security was stepped up in Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Nagar and other areas of the national capital as well as in various states which had earlier witnessed anti-CAA protests.

Under the notified rules, the Applicants for Indian citizenship will have to continuously spend at least 12 months in India preceding the date of the application.

The rules also said that during the eight years immediately preceding the said period of twelve months, the applicants will have to spend at least a total of six years in India to be eligible to get Indian citizenship.

The applicants will also have to give a declaration that they "irrevocably" renounce the existing citizenship and that they want to make "India a permanent home", it said.

They will have to declare that they will not lay claim on the renounced citizenship in future, it added.

All cleared applicants will have to take an oath of allegiance affirming that they will "bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India" as by law established and that they would "faithfully observe the laws of India" and "fulfil" their duties as a citizen of India, it said.

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