TODAY -

Citizenship Bill 2016: An unjust Bill

Ngayaipam A Shimray *



The Citizenship Act, 1955 was enacted to provide for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship. Under the existing provisions of the Act, a person residing in the country without an official permission, who have either entered into India without valid travel documents or the validity of their documents have expired, are regarded as illegal migrants and hence ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

As against this the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 seeks to grant Citizenship to illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened to six years for such migrants which is a reduction from 11 years in the Citizenship Act 1955. Amending the existing Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant citizenship to the aforesaid communities falls in line with the pre-poll promise of the BJP in 2014, when it assured to grant citizenship to Hindus even adding it in their election manifesto to welcome Hindu refugees back to India, in a bid to project India as the ‘natural home' for Hindus.

The bill go against the Secular fabric upon which this very nation was established. It does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighboring countries, such as Jews and Bahais. This clearly violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which states that "the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law."

Article 14 forms part of the basic structure of Indian Constitution which cannot be altered or destroyed through amendment s by the Parliament as established under Justice Hans Raj Khanna's judgment in the landmark decision of Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, 1973.

In an exclusive interview with "Frontline", Samujjal Bhattacharjya, Chief Adviser to All Assam Student Union(ASSU) and adviser to North East Students' Organisation(NESO) made it very clear when he said, "Citizenship cannot be decided on the basis of religion." An illegal migrant is an illegal migrant irrespective of the faith and belief they adopt. He further asserts, "India is for Indians; Assam is for Indians; the north-east is for Indians. They are not for illegal settlers from Bangladesh."

North East in general and Assam, in particular, has been carrying the burden of foreign migration for the last few decades on behalf of the whole country. We cannot bear the burden of foreign migrants anymore irrespective of their religion.

Self-care should always come first. It is like the airplane mask warning. When emergencies happen and the mask drops from the ceiling you are supposed to help yourself first. Then proceed to help others to put on their masks. Let's show compassion to our own citizens first. I wonder if we have opened your eyes to the amount of mental illness, unemployment and homeless people in the country.

Well, Tens of millions of Indians remain destitute and thousands of farmers commit suicide each year. As per the information of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), there are nearly 31 million unemployed Indians looking for jobs as of February 2018.

According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018″ report, 195.9 million people are undernourished in India which means that 14.8% of the population is undernourished in India. Crores of Indians are going to bed hungry every night; Our fellow Citizens are dying of hunger and of basic needs even as I pen down these words.

So, with what courage and with what moral authority are our Government going to bring the illegal immigrants from across the border when they cannot even provide the basic needs, protect the rights and liberties, traditions and culture, and the land and the people of this country.

With the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the government plans to change the definition of illegal migrants. This is what has not gone down well with the North Eastern States. Thousands in the region let by various Political Parties and NGOs have been protesting against it as it would threaten the existence of the indigenous people in the region.

A committee appointed by the Assam government last year to suggest measures for the protection of land rights has warned that the indigenous communities in the state would be reduced to a "landless class of people" if effective constitutional, legal and administrative measures are not implemented soon. The illegal migrants pose an enormous problem for India and the millions of affected people. The passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 will only make matters worse.

My dear friends, Please don't get me wrong. I am not against any religion nor against any caste, creed, race, sex, tribe or community but I do believe that "Charity begins at Home". When we can't solve our own problems, fixed our Homes; When we can't be our Brother's keeper and Sister's caretaker how do we welcome our friends from across the border.

Country First, Nation First, India First. Putting ourselves first doesn't mean we don't care about others. It means we are smart enough to know we can't help others if we don't help ourselves first. Self-care is not Selfish. We cannot serve from an empty vessel nor from an empty cup.


* Ngayaipam A Shimray this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an MA Pol Sc 3rd Semester student at NEHU and can be reached at shimrayngayaipam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 22, 2018.



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