Sunday, 5 April 2020

Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019: What is it and why is it seen as a problem

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) became law after receiving the President’s assent on Thursday, following a bruising debate in Parliament. Assam has been in the throes of violence since Wednesday, when Rajya Sabha took up the Bill after it was passed in Lok Sabha, with its capital under indefinite curfew, and Army and paramilitary columns rolling across multiple towns.
At least three Opposition ruled states — Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal —have said they will not implement the new citizenship law, and legal challenges have been made in the Supreme Court.

Why is Assam in particular seeing such strong protests?

In Assam, what is primarily driving the protests is not who are excluded from the ambit of the new law, but how many are included. The protesters are worried about the prospect of the arrival of more migrants, irrespective of religion, in a state whose demography and politics have been defined by migration. The Assam Movement (1979-85) was built around migration from Bangladesh, which many Assamese fear will lead to their culture and language being ovetaken, besides putting pressure on land resources and job opportunities.
The protesters’ argument is that the new law violates the Assam Accord of 1985, which sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff for Indian citizenship. This is also the cut-off for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, whose final version was published this year. Under the new law, the cutoff is December 31, 2014, for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It has become controversial largely because it excludes Muslims.

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