By Delhi Action Committee for Assam
The proposed amendment to India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 has raised grave concern among democratic circles in Assam and in other parts of the country. The proposed amendment reads that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act” and that for persons belonging to the aforementioned minority communities, “the aggregate period of residence or service of a Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as ‘not less than six years’ in place of ‘not less than eleven years’.”
The proposed amendment which is being considered by a Joint Parliamentary Committee is indeed is a matter of grave concern for the whole of India. Government officials have claimed that the decision to grant Indian citizenship to the above mentioned discriminated religious communities in neighbouring countries is premised on ‘humanitarian grounds’. Notwithstanding this benevolent claim by the government, one needs to carefully place this proposed amendment in perspective.
The proposed amendment is premised on the religious persecution of non-Muslim minorities in neighbouring Muslim majority countries. While religious basis have ’softly’ underlined India’s approaches to the issue of immigration since the Partition, what is alarming with the amendment proposed by the current government is its vehement attempt, in the garb of humanitarianism, to upturn the Constitution of India by slyly trying to introduce religious right-to-return. The current government displays zero or very little humanitarian concern for non-Hindu marginalised communities in the country and in neighbouring countries.
Unlike Israel, Korea (both South and North), and few other countries, Indian law and the Constitution till today doesn’t recognise any notion of ‘Right to return’. This is the first time, when a sort of religious ’right to return’ is being advocated by the law-makers. To reiterate, this runs contrary to the secular fabric of the Constitution.
Further apart from complicating the already vulnerable demographic cauldron of the state of Assam, the circumstances under which the amendment is sought to be carried out raise questions about the federal structure of the country. The proposed amendment overrides the Assam Accord of 1985 which sets the date of 24 March 1971 as the cut off date for categorisation of illegal foreign immigrants to Assam, irrespective of Muslims or Hindus. In 1986 the Citizenship Act was amended and Article 6A was inserted. Retrospectively Article 6A granted citizenship to all those who entered Assam on or before 24 March 1971. How many amendment to Citizenship Act is required? Ain’t the amendments made after the Assam Accord of 1985 not enough?
We strongly demand that the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 be immediately withdrawn.