*No Relationship between CAA and NRC*
*Brig Anil Gupta*
Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) has nothing in common but yet the propagandists are spreading rumours and creating scare nationwide leading to violence, loot and arson. It is a sad day for Indian democracy because the power of the Parliament is being challenged in the streets by misinformed crowds for the sake of petty political gains. In a democracy, it is a well- established norm to carry out no holds barred discussion on the floors of both houses of Parliament before any bill becomes an act. The members are given opportunity to oppose, seek amendments or support the bill. Thereafter, the bill is passed by majority vote which could be ascertained verbally or through voting when the opposition presses for division. But once the bill is passed by the majority, it is the responsibility of all parties to respect the verdict of the parliament and facilitate its implementation after it becomes an Act after the Presidential consent. Unfortunately, throwing to the winds the democratic norms, the opposition decided to take the fight to streets in respect of the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). At times peaceful protests are alright to vent hurt sentiments or feelings but violent protests leading to loot, arson and vandalising government and public property as well as attacking the police personnel thus creating a law and order problem amounts to nothing but deliberate assault on democratic ethos. Furthermore, if facts are suppressed and falsehood propagated along with rumours to create scare among vulnerable sections of the society, such acts deserve not only condemnation but thorough investigations to identify and punish the trouble-creators and their sympathisers.
Along with the Constitution of India, the Citizenship Act 1955, is the exhaustive law relating to citizenship in India. The original Act has been amended at various times by the Citizenship (Amendment) Acts of 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019. The 2003 amendment mandated the Government of India to construct a National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Citizenship Act of 1955 (promulgated by the Congress government) provides for compulsory registration of every citizen of India and issuance of National Identity Card to him. The Citizenship Rules of 2003 (promulgated by NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee) was framed to prescribe the manner of preparation of NRC to facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the Act of 1955. It needs to be understood that while the Citizenship Act or CAA are meant to grant Indian citizenship, the NRC is aimed at drawing a distinction between genuine registered Indian citizens and illegal immigrants who have entered the country through dubious means. NRC is nationality specific and not religion specific.
Indian Nationality law largely follows the ‘jus sanguinis’ (citizenship by right of blood) as opposed to the ‘jus soli’ (citizenship by right of birth in the territory) practised in USA and many western countries. The Indian citizenship is granted under four clauses namely; Citizenship by Birth, Citizenship by Descent, Citizenship by Registration and Citizenship by Naturalization. The 2019 CAA provides a path for the religiously persecuted minorities in the three Muslim majority neighbours of India who are also declared Islamic Republics who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. It relaxes the requirement of residence in India for Citizenship by Naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for such refugees. It aims to draw a distinction between religiously persecuted refugees and illegal immigrants. It in no way prohibits or denies the right to apply for Indian citizenship to Muslims from these countries who will still have to follow the principle of naturalisation after 11 years. Hence, there is nothing in the CAA for Muslims to fear. However, a misconception is being created by the vested interests for the sake of vote bank politics that CAA is the prelude to NRC. This is nowhere near the truth and is a manufactured perception to provoke the Indian Muslims by creating a fear psychosis among them by using lose terminology like “India heading towards a Hindu Rashtra.” Such misconception and rumour-mongering has led to widespread violence and riots in the country creating unnecessary communal tension and is highly deplorable.
Home Ministry has repeatedly clarified, “CAA has nothing to do with NRC and it does not apply to Indian citizens, including Muslims. It applies to only six religious communities facing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.” No migrant will automatically become citizen of India as per the CAA, and each one will have to apply online, the refugees will have to fulfil all other conditions for registration, naturalisation as Indian citizen. Even Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has clarified, “the amended Citizenship Act has nothing to do with the proposed nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise. The Act does not take away the citizenship of an Indian national of any religion. When the draft of the proposed law on pan-India implementation of the NRC is prepared, it would be discussed and it will come before the people.
“There is no meaning in linking the NRC with the CAA,” he said responding to a question on fears that the amended citizenship law could be the prelude to the NRC exercise and minorities may get targeted.” The law minister also said, “Dialogue is the essence of democracy and those agitating against the amendments in the Act would be told that it does not hurt the interests of Indian citizens, including those from the minority communities.”
Hence the knowledge of Citizenship Act and purpose of NRC should satisfy the people and prevent them from falling prey to the mechanics of propagandists who are wanting to create a communal rift in the country. They are in fact the protectors of Bangladeshi infiltrators and Rohingya supporters who are spreading the violent protests letting opportunities to sleeper cells of extremist and militant Islamic fundamentalist organisations, Popular Front of India (PFI) and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)’ to resurface. These people have hijacked these issues and turned them into a communal issue for vote bank politics. A common Indian, irrespective of religion, need not worry about CAA or NRC.
NRC was mandated in 2003 when NDA was in power. Congress subsequently and its allies (UPA) had the time to amend it or repeal it if they found it unconstitutional but they didn’t. The reason is simple NRC simply aimed at making a data base of Indian citizens to regulate voting rights & help in distribution of government jobs, subsidies and other benefits only to citizens and deny them to illegal immigrants. The data need to be provided for the NRC has yet to be formalised. The point to be noted is that it is not religion specific. In any case, the data will be collected door to door by the census officer or designated authority and the misinformation being spread that people have to queue up to prove their citizenship is highly malicious. As a first step towards securing the coastlines of our country after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack NRC was supposedly conducted in the coastal areas of many states in 2010 to include Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, TN and Andaman by the Congress government. In this connection MHA (Office of the Registrar General, India) Order # S.O. 1772 (E) dated 15th July, 2009 refers. What an irony: the ones opposing the NRC for communal vote bank politics today had ordered and conducted it a decade back.
The intention of the government is not against any particular religion can be gauged from the fact that Census 2021 ordered by the government will be first ever census where the religion of the person will not be recorded. As brought out earlier Indian citizenship is not religion based as in theocratic states. Let’s take pride in Indian citizenship, in having an Indian Identity Card for which NRC is mandatory. It is for the benefit of all citizens and there is no cause of worry for them. Worried should be the illegal immigrants and their political masters who exploit them as a vote bank.
The happenings of last two to three days have badly exposed the opposition. While it terms CAA & NRC unconstitutional what they are doing is nothing short of being anti-national. Voices from across the border, egging the Indian Muslims to press for another division of the country on communal lines must be a good enough warning for the irresponsible behaviour of certain political parties. CAA 2019 has no consequence on the existing citizenship of any Indian and pan-India NRC is a reality needs to be accepted since both are in our national interest.
(The author is a Jammu based veteran, political commentator, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Note: This article is published with comment of Fauji Reporter making its stand clear. Please read comments of Fauji Reporter given at the bottom.