India’s union Home Minister Amit Shah has introduced in the Lok Sabha, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there. The bill is likely to face strong opposition in Parliament as opposition parties are protesting against many clauses of the CAB.
The government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says this will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution. Critics say the bill is part of a BJP agenda to marginalise Muslims.
The bill has already prompted widespread protests in the north-east of the country which borders Bangladesh, as people there feel that they will be “overrun” by immigrants from across the border. The CAB amends the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens.
It defines illegal immigrants as foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel documents, or stay beyond the permitted time. Illegal immigrants can be deported or jailed. The new bill also amends a provision which says a person must have lived in India or worked for the federal government for at least 11 years before they can apply for citizenship.
Now, there will be an exception for members of six religious minority communities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian – if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They will only have to live or work in India for six years to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation, the process by which a non-citizen acquires the citizenship or nationality of that country.
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