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An unconstitutional act

  • Published at 06:05 pm December 19th, 2019
BJP Assam Citizenship bill
Anger and resentment REUTERS

The new Citizenship Ammendment Act is blatantly anti-Muslim

Recently, the Indian Parliament passed the highly controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The law not only violates the Indian constitution, but it also concerns the people of Bangladesh as it affects Bangladeshi immigrants and supports anti-Muslim law, causing divisions among Indians based on religious bias. 

This law is amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. 

Although the CAA did not originally consider religious affiliation to be a criterion for eligibility, the amended act now allows Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to become legal citizens while excluding Muslim populations. 

Although the requirement for nautralization was 11 years in the original law, the amended version has  reduced it to five years. This is good news for all immigrants who entered India on or before December 31, 2014 -- except Muslims.

It is clear that this law violates various articles of the Indian constitution. 

For example, in order to ensure equal treatment of its people, Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination of Indians based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. By excluding Muslims from being eligible for citizenship, the CAA now goes against Article 15.  

Article 21 says that: “No person shall be deprived of their life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” But the CAA denies Muslim immigrants the right to life and liberty in India. 

Article 25 states: “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.” And yet, the Act infringes on the Muslim population’s right to freely practice and propagate religion. 

The eligibility of a law needs to be tested based on the constitution. Unfortunately, this law fails to fulfill much of the constitutional requirements in its intention to violate secularism and the liberty of a particular community.

This has become a humanitarian issue, not just a legal one. 

The Act specifically targets three Muslim-majority countries neighboring India. Why not include other neighbours like Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar? 

The Indian government in its current state already has a reputation for being anti-Muslim. For example, it abolished Article 370 which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir, bringing it under the domain of the central government. 

And recently, India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) has also been controversial, to be used in conjunction with the Citizenship Act. 

The NRC is a record of legal Indian citizens (based on the Citizenship Act) and will directly affect minorities like Indian Muslims by giving them an “illegal immigrant” status.

The CAA further confirms the anti-Muslim mentality of the present Indian government.

To uphold the integrity of the nation, the Indian government must follow the rules and regulations outlined by its own constitution. 

In my opinion, the Indian government should take immediate steps to reform the law and bring it in line with the demands of the people by ensuring that equal respect is given to everyone, including minorities and immigrants of all religions. 

Md Rakibul Hasan is a student of law.

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