The Indian government on Monday announced the enforcement of the Citizenship Amendment Act and notified the corresponding rules ahead of the upcoming general elections. The legislation is now called Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024. The rules will facilitate the granting of citizenship to undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Applicants are required to submit their applications through an exclusively online platform, facilitated by a designated web portal. The home ministry emphasized that the “Constitution of India grants us the right to provide religious persecuted refugees with fundamental rights and to grant citizenship from a humanitarian perspective.”

The implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act faced delays due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed in December 2019, and it got the president’s assent. The law, however, could not come into effect so far as rules have to be notified for its implementation.

It was enacted through the Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019. The Act amended the Citizenship Act 1955 by offering a path toward Indian Citizenship for minority religions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, or Christians who arrived in India before the end of December 2014.

It doesn’t include Muslims, who migrated to India owing to religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The 2019 announcement had caused major anti-CAA protests nationwide and over 100 people lost their lives, as per reports.

BJP hails PM for CAA implementation
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asserted that the government has “fulfilled its guarantee by issuing the notification of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)”.

“CAA has been implemented across India,” BJP posted on social media.

Providing a chronological account of the citizenship law’s progression, the BJP stated that the proposed law was initially introduced in the parliament in 2019. It secured passage in Lok Sabha on 10 December 2019, and in Rajya Sabha on 11 December 2019.

“The Citizenship Amendment Act took the form of a law after it was signed by the president,” the BJP wrote on X.

“On March 11, 2024, the Central government notified the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act.”

Opposition condemns government decision
The opposition was quick to criticize the government over the decision and linked it to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls due in April-May.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took to the social media platform X and termed the announcement as the BJP’s latest move to polarize the elections, especially in West Bengal and Assam.

“It has taken four years and three months for the Modi Government to notify the rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act that was passed by the Parliament in December 2019. The Prime Minister claims that his Government works in a business-like and time-bound manner. The time taken to notify the rules for the CAA is yet another demonstration of the Prime Minister’s blatant lies,” he wrote.

“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. It also appears to be an attempt to manage the headlines after the Supreme Court’s severe strictures on the Electoral Bonds Scandal,” he added.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that centre’s decision to notify CAA is against the country and that people would respond to it in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

“After ruling the country for ten years, Modi government has brought CAA before the elections. At a time when the poor and middle class are groaning due to inflation and unemployed youth are struggling from door to door for employment, instead of solving those real issues, these people have brought CAA,” the Delhi CM wrote in a post on X.

“This is strongly opposed especially by the people of Assam and the entire North-East India, who have been victims of migration from Bangladesh and whose language and culture are in danger today. BJP has betrayed the people of Assam and the entire North Eastern states,” he added.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said, “give asylum to anyone who is persecuted but citizenship must not be based on religion or nationality. The govt should explain why it kept these rules pending for five years & why it’s implementing it now. Along with NPR-NRC, CAA is meant to only target Muslims, it serves no other purpose.”

Owaisi slammed the Central government for implementing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, claiming the law is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s murderer Nathuram Godse’s thought and alleged that it will reduce Muslims to second-class citizens.

Reacting to the government’s announcement, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that it was ruling BJP’s “publicity for elections” and if the rules “deprive” people of their rights, her party will fight against them.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav slammed the BJP for releasing the CAA notification and claimed that it was its “game of distraction”.

Who will be eligible for Indian citizenship after CAA rules are notified?
Individuals from persecuted minorities who entered India before December 31, 2014, originating from either Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh, will qualify for Indian citizenship under the CAA rules. The CAA expedites the path to Indian citizenship for these persecuted minorities by six years, making those who arrived before 2014 eligible for citizenship.

Moreover, the amendment eases the residence requirement for naturalization of these migrants from 11 years to five.

The religious minorities listed within the ambit of the Citizenship Amendment Act include individuals from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian faiths who fled to India from the neighbouring Muslim-majority nations due to “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution”.

MTNews Desk

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