Before the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, the Union government is expected to notify the rules of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, as per multiple reports.
The Citizenship Amendment Act was approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019. Even though the parliamentary guidelines state that the terms of an act must be published within six months of the legislation coming into force, it has not happened in the case of CAA till now, even after three years.
The Citizenship Amendment Act offers to provide citizenship to immigrants from six minority religious communities “except Muslims” from selected neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.
The criterion behind the selection of these countries and the eviction Muslims from the scope of the legislation was widely criticised since the beginning. Moreover, there were massive protests across the country after the amendment was passed by Parliament in December 2019 and received the presidential assent subsequently.
Due to the functional failure of Assam NRC and the unprecedented magnitude of resistance from the masses, the BJP government was forced to stay on back foot.
At present, the suddenly developed haste in publishing the rules has drawn severe distaste from both the critics and the opposition leaders.
Soon after a government functionary stated that rules for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 will be notified “much before” the announcement of Lok Sabha elections, many have termed the move an election gimmick to consolidate votes.
At the same time, the debates on the content of the act have been once again reopened.
Referring to a media report on the remarks by the government functionary, Manish Tewari, a Congress MP on Wednesday argued that religion cannot be the basis of citizenship in India.
“In a country that has Secularism enshrined in the Preamble of its Constitution can religion be the basis of Citizenship whether extra-territorial or even territorial? The answer is no.” “This was the nub of my argument when I led the opposition to the CAA Bill in the Lok Sabha in December 2019. It is the Core question in the Challenge before the Supreme Court,” the MP from Punjab said.
“Hypothetically-Tomorrow a government could argue that religion will be the basis of Citizenship even territorially not place of birth or the other criterion for citizenship in the Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act,” he added.
He further claimed that in the name of reasonable classification to surmount religious persecution in our neighbourhood, the ground is being prepared for some other “insidious template”.
In a video message on Wednesday, senior Trinamool leader and state minister Shashi Panja said “BJP is merely using CAA as a tool before elections.”
“Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has categorically mentioned that CAA will not be implemented in Bengal. Those who are already citizens of Bengal need not be given citizenship twice. They are recipients and beneficiaries of various developmental schemes in Bengal. They have passed the law but are yet to frame the rules. This is nothing but an attempt to fool the masses before the Lok Sabha elections,” she said.
Reacting to the row, AIMIM chief Asadduddin Owaisi said on Wednesday that the citizenship amendment passed in 2019 was “anti-constitutional” as it was formulated on the basis of religion.
“CAA must be read with and understood with NPR-NRC which will lay down the conditions to prove your citizenship in this country. It will be a grave injustice, especially to the Muslims, Dalits and the poor of India irrespective of the caste or religion they belong to,” he said, as quoted by ANI.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury alleged that the BJP government was attempting for a communal polarization ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
“Now it is clear. For all these years…these rules(CAA) were not notified…Clearly, they want to notify these rules just before the elections to use this as a political weapon to gain in the elections through sharpening communal polarisation. This is the clear-cut aim. This is utilising the rules and declarations as a tool for some electoral gains,” he said.