National

‘Citizenship amendment bill communally motivated’: Activists

Civil society groups held a protest rally in New Delhi on Thursday opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, terming it “communally motivated humanitarianism.”

By seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religious denomination, it is blatantly in violation of the constitution,” said Shalim Hussein of the Delhi Action Committee for Assam, one of the organisers of the protest.

The proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Muslim majority countries, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“This would mean, for instance, that the sizeable population of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh living in Assam would become citizens while Muslims who migrated to Assam from East Bengal a century ago would continue to be harassed as ‘illegal migrants from Bangladesh,” said Bonojit Hussein, one of the protesters at the rally. “This amendment makes plain the BJP’s communal agenda in Assam. It aims to consolidate the Hindu vote through this amendment,” he said.

Reduced residency period

The proposed amendment also seeks to reduce from 11 years to six years the aggregate period of residence required in India to be eligible for Indian citizenship.

Speaking at the protest, social activist Kavita Krishnan said, “India is not like Israel, which is a Jewish state, offering the “right to return” to Jews anywhere in the world. Since India is constitutionally secular, this amendment tries to bring Hindu Rashtra into the legal framework through the backdoor. By inviting Hindus specifically to come back to Indian citizenship, it is a ghar wapsi bill of sorts.”

Bonojit added, “If this was truly a humanitarian move, why not offer citizenship to climate refugees? Or to atheists facing persecution? What’s special about only these six religious communities?”

Since Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, differentiating between people on the grounds of religion would be in violation of the constitution, said activists.