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Why Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is a crucial law for the current times

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C(A)A aims to solve an unresolved Partition-era issue that lingered for 70 years, and is a vital law for Assam, contrary to popular (mis)perceptions arising out of protests in the state which suggest otherwise.

The Citizenship Amendment Act {C(A)A} has dominated the headlines in the last few weeks, with several parts of the country (Assam in particular in the North-East) rocked by violent protests with the active participation of some prominent institutions of learning. While violent protests are per se reprehensible, in the instant case an objective analysis of the nature of the Act and the prevailing circumstances would militate against even a peaceful agitation. Clearly, the protests being witnessed are the result of unfounded apprehensions fomented by vested interests which are acting against the national interest and enabling a 70-year old problem to persist. A classic example of this is Mamata Banerjee’s call for a UN monitored referendum on the C(A)A! The fact that students have joined the protests gives us an idea of the prevailing rot persisting in our educational system. The least that one would have expected of such students was to be better informed about the realities of the C(A)A before mindlessly taking to the streets and resorting to vandalism.

Unfortunately, the Government narrative designed to set at rest these apprehensions has not succeeded so far. Both the Central and Assam State governments had horribly miscalculated the situation in the state arising out of these protests. Much greater attention was needed to sensitize the people about this upcoming law, which would have prevented such a precarious situation from arising. Sadly, it has been found wanting on the communication front with the native populace, giving away all the wrong signals, while it has addressed the perception management adequately elsewhere in the country and on the foreign policy aspect.

Also, from what I have observed from the reactions on this Act, the supporters (which very much includes Yours Truly, who’s himself an Assamese-Hindu and a college student), seem to have a vague idea about how this Act would be beneficial. To set things clear, this law does not talk about the minorities currently residing in the Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It only offers a one-time amnesty to the refugees from these countries (more specifically the ones on the eastern sector), who were already here in Bharat on or before the cut-off date of 31st December, 2014 and who were left stateless by the actions of the Congress party. How, when and why they were left in such a pitiable situation, let us know in detail:

In the year 1950, the Illegal Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act came into being. Under this Act, Hindu displaced persons (refugees) who were victims of partition or faced persecution in East Pakistan, were protected ONLY in the state of Assam, while it had stringent provision for expulsion of illegal Muslim immigrants from that country. So as per this Act, there was a difference between immigrants and refugees, which continued till 1983. Sadly, during this long period from 1950, while they were protected, the citizenship status of these partition and post partition era refugees was never settled by successive Congress Govts. Even the Citizenship Act that was first framed in 1955 did not have any mention about these refugees without documents, which could have settled the issue once and for all. This helped Congress keep Assam disturbed and reap political mileage.

In 1983, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act came into being that clubbed both Hindu refugees and Muslim illegal immigrants together by coining a new term “illegal migrant”. The IMDT Act also legally introduced the cut-off date 25th March 1971 to detect the illegal migrants. Two years later in 1985, the Assam Accord accepted this same cut-off date, which subsequently was inserted into the Citizenship Act as ‘Section 6A’ later that year, thereby delineating a separate cut-off year for the state of Assam, while for the rest of the country it was 19th July, 1948. Since Hindu refugees were anyway protected by the 1950 Act till the time it got suspended with the coming about of IMDT Act, the Assam Accord thus only helped to regularise the Muslim illegal immigrants till 1971. Thus the All Assam Students Union (AASU), which signed this Accord on behalf of the people of Assam, fell into the trap of the Congress and pro-Islamist lobby.

In 2005, however, when SC repealed the IMDT Act, it also re-promulgated the 1950 Act in Assam (paragraph no. 57 of the judgement) that was suspended for the past 22 years. Thus again from 12th July 2005, Hindu refugees continued to be protected in Assam. In effect, SC also accepted the difference between refugees and illegal immigrants. But in December 2004, sensing that IMDT may get repealed, Congress amended the Citizenship Act on 3rd December 2004 by inserting the term “illegal migrant” into Section 2 of the Act, so that illegal migrants (the term at that point of time included both Hindu refugees and Muslim illegal immigrants) cannot even apply for citizenship.

After BJP came to power, it strengthened the Passport Act and Foreigners Act in 2015 giving protection to Hindu refugees. After these two amendments via notifications, now the C(A)A only seeks to re-amend the Citizenship Act as a natural corollary to the SC order to correct the actions of the Congress in December 2004. This re-amendment will ONLY allow Hindu refugees to APPLY for citizenship. Now as BJP came to power in 2014, it set 31st December 2014 as the cut-off date for C(A)A, since the cut-off has to be on or after 12th July 2005, when the SC pronounced its verdict on IMDT and ensured that the 1950 Act is once again enforced in the state of Assam, ensuring protection to Hindu refugees ONLY in one state.

While BJP therefore wants to go as per law (1950 Act & SC order) and give protection to refugees and finally settle the refugee issue completely by clarifying their citizenship status (like the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh), the Congress and Left-liberal lobby wants the same facility to be extended to Muslims from these countries as they want Muslim illegal immigrants should also be allowed to apply for citizenship, after having regularised them till 2004. This only signifies their latent sinister agenda. The regionalist lobby comprising of the AASU on the other hand threatens that no one should be allowed to apply after 25th March 1971 on the basis of religion as all are illegal migrants as per Assam Accord. But why where they sleeping when the Citizenship Act was amended in 1987, 1992 and 2003 regularising foreigners by birth? And why do they fail to realize that they themselves had celebrated the SC order in 2005 which in principle had accepted the difference between Hindu refugees and illegal Muslim migrants?

What they would not want others to know (or maybe they themselves are not aware of), is the cut-off date in the Assam Accord that they have consistently been alleging is violated by C(A)A, is actually for detection of foreigners, while the cut-off in the C(A)A talks of granting citizenship. This basic fundamental difference that plays out to ensure a difference between illegal immigrants and refugees must be kept in mind. Both these groups seem to be under the influence of the Islamist lobby (represented earlier by Sadullah, then Mainul Haq Choudhury, followed by Muhib Mazumdar, now Badruddin Ajmal) which harbours a tacit goal of making Assam the next Kashmir.

Now that C(A)A is a national law, it extends refugee protection to entire India. Also, the refugees in Assam will no longer remain ‘refugee’ but can become ‘citizens’. Once they become citizens, they will no longer be protected by the 1950 law in Assam alone, as has been the case. They can go to other states also. Moreover, with C(A)A in place, even refugees can be disbursed to other states. Without C(A)A no such removal or expulsion of refugees from Assam is possible under any other prevalent law, as is being demanded by the protesting groups. In addition, once the bonafide refugees are identified via this filtering mechanism, the illegal economic immigrants would be completely isolated on one side. Hence, government would be under a better position to initiate a crackdown on them, leading to the ultimate step of deportation.

To conclude, the exact time-frame for the refugees to apply shall be known when the Rules under this Act are notified by the government in the coming days. Till then, the government deserves our support for solving these never-ending problems created by vote-bank politics of the Congress once and for all. Hence this law is a necessity not just for one state, but for the whole nation, as it is a de facto refugee law which will highlight our duty towards our very own brethren who were separated from us due to the cruelties of fate and time, and allow them to have a life of dignity!

“Joyotu Axomi Aai!”
“Joy Arjyavarta!”

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