The Citizenship Amendment Bill causes furore in Assam

Assam has shut down in protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill. The Bill which goes against the Assam Accord is alleged discriminatory on the basis of religion instigating political and communal wars.

Unrest and bandh was reported in parts of Assam since October 23, 2018, due to protest against proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955(“1955 Act”). The indigenous communities and Assamese-speaking residents of the State fear that this law could pave way to undocumented Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh seeking Indian citizenship, leading to further issues in Assam.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, proposes to amend the 1955 Act to allow members of six communities i.e. Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian having migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to be eligible for citizenship if they had entered the country before December 14, 2014. Under the 1955 Act, an applicant seeking citizenship by naturalisation must have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The proposed Bill relaxes the 11-year requirement to six years.

Assam’s indigenous groups, 46 of whom are supporting the bandh are opposing the Bill as they believe that the Bill violates Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of August 15, 1985. The large scale infiltration into Assam, they believe will hamper the protection, preservation and promotion of the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of native Assamese people.

Takeaways:

  1. The Indian Parliament will debate the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the winter session. The Bill was proposed by the BJP Government to uphold their 2014 election promise to save Hindus in neighboring nations from being prosecuted. It is claimed to be unconstitutional as it discriminates based on religion.
     
  2. A few months earlier in July, the National Register of Citizens listed the names of people of Assam who will be recognised as citizens of India. A large number of, minority Bengali-speaking Muslims were left off this list leading to speculation that it was agenda based and anti-Muslim.
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