‘No automatic citizenship’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 16, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:18 AM, December 16, 2019

India’s Contentious Citizenship Act

‘No automatic citizenship’

New Delhi tries to assure NE states; Amit Shah offers hope to Meghalaya

The central government in India has moved to allay fears over an influx of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees into the northeast with a number of tweets on the official PIB Twitter handle this morning, after violent protests engulfed Assam and parts of the region for a fifth consecutive day yesterday.

In a series labelled “#Mythbusters”, the centre claimed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) would not trigger a fresh wave of migration and said: “...population share of Hindus in Bangladesh has declined from 28 per cent to 8 per cent... most minorities have already migrated”.

The centre also said fears the CAA would make Indian citizens of the 1.5 lakh undocumented Hindu Bengalis in Assam were misplaced.

“No foreigners will get citizenship automatically by the Act. A prescribed authority will scrutinise each application submitted for citizenship; and only those persons complying with the criteria specified in the Act will be granted Indian citizenship,” one of the tweets reads.

The centre has also claimed that the “scale of atrocities... in Bangladesh has been coming down in recent years” and that “large-scale migration on account of religious persecution is now a remote possibility”.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar made similar remarks on Thursday, hours after Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his visit. A day earlier Momen said allegations of repression of minorities in his country were “untrue”.

The controversial Act which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was passed earlier this week, after a heated debate in parliament - Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said it was from the “Nazi playbook”.

In its outreach to protesters yesterday, the centre also reassured them that regional identities would continue to be protected under Article 371 and said the “sanctity” of the 1985 Assam Accord would be preserved.

The centre also reiterated that tribal areas of certain states and areas under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system (this includes the entire state of Manipur) would be exempted.

Meanwhile, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has assured that the concerns of Meghalaya regarding the law will be looked into after Christmas, the state’s Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has said.

Meghalaya is one of the northeastern states which have been witnessing widespread protests over the law. There have been concerns that the application of law will dilute the tribal demography of the state.

Following widespread protests and violence in state capital Shillong and other areas, parts of the state have been under curfew for much of the week. Since Friday, mobile internet and SMS services were blocked across the state, markets remained shut and vehicles stayed off the roads.

In addition to protests in the northeast, the Chief Ministers of at least 5 other states have said the CAA will not be implemented in their territories, setting up a legal tug-of-war between them and the centre.

However, constitution experts unanimously hold that states have no option other than implementing a law passed by national parliament, reports our New Delhi correspondent.


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