Ever since the rolling out of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (now Act) and the National Register of Citizens, people, not just in the capital, but the entire country took to the streets to express their dissent on the matter.
Silent protests, violent protests, social media protests and ignorant protests – all abound and seem something in vogue.
Midst their powerful loud voices, the voices of those in favour of CAA-NRC have taken a side stand. But do we know what their point is and what they are standing for?
Demystifying The Protests In And For Assam:
The very first protest that began were in opposition to what happened in the Northeast and the subsequent resistance there.
What many people don’t know is the fact that North-eastern states like Assam aren’t protesting against the CAA on religious grounds. Rather, their protests are more ethnic in nature and oppose the CAA on the grounds that such a huge influx of migrants from the neighbouring countries will threaten the livelihood and hold on resources of the indigenous population of the region.
Additionally, the ‘Inner Line Permit’ in the region is where the Act does not apply. This is drawn so as to protect the rights of the North-eastern states’ population.
Illegal migration from the neighbouring states has been a real problem in these states for several years. The people of the region deal with an issue that is grounded in ethnicity, not a Hindu-Muslim one. So, people fighting “on-behalf” of the Northeast should get this basic fact cleared once.
Does It Violate Article 14 Of The Indian Constitution?
Hoards of protesting people have raised their opposition on the grounds that the Act is unconstitutional in nature as it violates the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This particular article reads as-
“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
This has two parts:
Equality Before The Law- Which means that everyone is equal before the law. For a crime ‘X’, the two (or more) perpetrators will be subject to the same laws.
Equal Protection of Laws: People are inherently or socially different from one another. This means that the judiciary has reasonable room for classification of the population for the sake of dispensing justice.
But this reasonable classification isn’t arbitrary. The decision of whether a law is arbitrary or not is taken by the Supreme Court. Hence, just on the basis of perceived inequality, the Act doesn’t become illegal or unconstitutional.
Why Accepting Migrants Selectively From A Handful Of Countries?
It has been argued that the Act’s leaving out of the Muslim community is discriminatory in nature. If we dig deeper, it doesn’t particularly seem so.
The Act makes provision for persecuted minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from 3 neighbouring Islamic countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Having said that, the Act does not grant these communities citizenship immediately.
The years for which they have to have lived in the country to gain citizenship has been reduced from 11 to 5. The cut-off date is 31st December 2014, which means that those people from the mentioned minorities who migrated to India before the said date and resided in the country for the next five years will be granted citizenship.
The reason for having chosen just these three states is that India shares a shared ethno-religious past with them. Sri Lankan minorities have been left out due to the reason that the country provides to its people the equal right to practice all religions.
One can argue that even certain sects of Muslims are persecuted in their own countries though they are Muslim majority. The Act, however, does not mention either the word “persecution” or that it will shelter the minorities persecuted within their religions.
Whether or not the Act is morally correct cannot be determined. What can be asserted for sure is that it is definitely within the ambit of the Indian Constitution, and those who support it do have a point.
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