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Government implements Citizenship (Amendment) Act, what is CAA and why is it facing criticism

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The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government announced the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 or CAA on 11th March 2024 ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections.
The CAA amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to provide Indian citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who belong to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist, and Christian communities and had entered India on or before December 31, 2014, due to religious persecution in their home countries. Under the provisions of the CAA, Indian citizenship will be granted to these six minority communities from India’s three neighbouring countries Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. The rules come into force with immediate effect, according to a Gazette notification.

Not applicable to

The amendments introduced by CAA will not be applicable to areas covered by the Constitution’s 6th schedule. These are the autonomous tribal-dominated regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. Hence, migrants belonging to the abovementioned communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan based on religion are not eligible for Indian citizenship if they are residents in these areas.

The Home Minister says

Union Home Minister Amit Shah took to X and informed, “The Modi government today notified the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024. 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.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated, “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 was delayed due to the COVID pandemic”, according to a newswire report.

New portal, mobile app launched

The Ministry of Home Affairs has come up with an online portal to facilitate the application process through which eligible migrants can submit their applications in a completely online mode. Applicants will be required to declare the year of their entry into India without travel documents, and no additional documentation will be requested from them. The benefits under the CAA will be extended to undocumented minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
The official X (Twitter) handle of the Ministry of Home Affairs posted on Tuesday afternoon, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024 under the CAA-2019 have been notified. A new portal has been launched, persons eligible under CAA-2019 can apply for citizenship on this portal. A mobile app ‘CAA-2019’ will also be launched shortly to facilitate applications through mobile app.”
The official account had posted on Monday evening, “Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be notifying today, the Rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA-2019). These rules, called the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024 will enable the persons eligible under CAA-2019 to apply for grant of Indian citizenship. The applications will be submitted in a completely online mode for which a web portal has been provided.”

CAA Not Anti-Muslim

The Central government’s Press Information Bureau’s fact-checking wing has refuted a claim made by foreign news organisation Al Jazeera on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as ‘misleading’. PIB has also called the Al Jazeera news article on CAA as false.
“Misinformation is being spread by @AJEnglish regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act, calling the act ‘anti-Muslim,” stated the fact-checking division of PIB.
“CAA will not take away citizenship of any Indian citizen irrespective of religion. It’s not against any single religion/community. It’s an enabling law only to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighboring countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan & Bangladesh,” it clarified in a post on X.

Part of BJP’s manifesto

Notably, the CAA was an integral part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Home Minister Amit Shah had announced in February this year that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be notified and implemented before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. “CAA will be implemented before the Lok Sabha polls. There is no hurdle to implementing CAA. The rules for implementing the CAA will be issued soon, and the process to grant Indian nationality to the beneficiaries will start soon,” he had announced.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed by the Parliament in December 2019. The Bill is aimed at giving a dignified life to people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated to India on or before 31st December 2014 after facing persecution on the ground of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The bill will grant Indian Citizenship to the migrants from the above communities who are considered eligible.

Reaction from opposition parties

Reacting to the announcement, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took to social media calling this as the Bhartiya Janata Party’s latest move to polarise the elections, especially in states like West Bengal and Assam.
“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 said.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has criticised the Central government for implementing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, claiming the law is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s murderer Nathuram Godse’s thought. Owaisi claimed that the CAA law will “reduce Muslims to second-class citizens.”
Reacting to the development, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she would oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) if it discriminates against people, highlighting that CAA and the NRC could be sensitive to West Bengal and the Northeast.
Addressing a press conference on the same day evening, the CM said, “There are speculations that CAA rules will be notified. Let me be very clear that we will oppose anything that discriminates people. Let them bring out the rules and then we will speak on the issue after going through the rules.”
Shiv Sena (UBT) Spokesperson Anand Dubey raised doubts about the timing of the latest Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) notification, implying that the government had ample opportunity to introduce it over the past ten years.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan described the CAA as a communally divisive law and asserted that it will not be implemented in the state, as per reports.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M K Stalin on Monday said implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, four years after it was passed in Parliament, is an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “salvage his sinking ship” by exploiting religious sentiments for political gains.

Muslim League in Supreme Court

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) on Tuesday challenged CAA implementation in Supreme Court, calling it ‘discriminatory’. The IUML has filed a plea in the apex court seeking a stay on the newly notified Citizenship Amendment Rules 2024 in the country. IUML has also demanded an urgent hearing on the matter.

All India Muslim Jamaat President welcomes CAA

Maulana Shahabuddin Razvi Bareilvi, President of All India Muslim Jamaat has welcomed the legislation. Saying that there are a lot of misunderstandings among the Muslims regarding this law, the All India Muslim Jamaat President stated that it would not affect citizenship status of the Muslim Community in India.
“The Govt of India has implemented the CAA law. I welcome this law. This should have been done much earlier but better late than never… There are a lot of misunderstandings among the Muslims regarding this law. This law has nothing to do with Muslims. Earlier there was no law to provide citizenship to the non-Muslims coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who faced atrocities based on religion…,” he said.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee welcomes CAA

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has welcomed the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, following the notification by the Centre on Monday, for the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. Gurcharan Singh Grewal, spokesperson of SGPC, stated that they appreciate the decision made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As per reports, he further emphasised that it is a positive step for Sikhs whose faith was converted in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

Filmstar Vijay reacts

Tamil cinema superstar and Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam (TVK) chief Thalapathy Vijay on Monday lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led Central government after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was implemented.
“It is not acceptable to implement any law like the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) in an environment where all citizens of the country live with social harmony… The leaders should ensure that this law does not get implemented in Tamil Nadu,” he posted in Tamil on social media.

Pakistani cricketer Danish Kaneria reacts

Looking at CAA as a breather for Hindus living in Pakistan, cricketer Danish Kaneria posted on social media platform X, “Pakistani Hindus will now be able to breathe in open air. #CAA”