India’s Debate on Citizenship Continues

Of interest:

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1955 outlined the ways in which individuals may acquire citizenship in India and specifically denies it to undocumented migrants. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 attempts to remedy this but does so peculiarly. It looks into granting Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan citizenship after 6 years of residence in India (as opposed to 11 years, as is the status quo) even without documentation. The Bill draft has been made available online and a Joint Parliamentary Commission with members of both parliamentary houses is examining it — and was open for comments until September 30.

Public discussion about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 follows two lines. First it has been criticized for delineating citizenship on purely religious lines. Although this is not new in a country like India, which was partitioned along religious lines, in this case the bill allows citizenship to undocumented migrants from most major Indian religious groups except for Muslims, at about half the duration currently required. In so many ways, this brings to mind the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign promise of providing a ‘natural home’ for Hindus in India as this policy is mostly directed towards Hindus from these countries.After facing the kind of opposition that resulted in the deputation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, government officials attempted to clarify accusations of religious discrimination. They discussed a plan to change the term “religious minorities” in the Bill to “discriminated religious minorities.” However that still does not encompass discriminated Islamic minorities like the Ahmadiyya populations in Pakistan, who will not qualify for Indian citizenship under the relaxed rules should they migrate.

Activists in New Delhi held a protest rally on September 30 to decry this Bill, calling it communally motivated. Activist Kavita Krishnan, for instance, declared that the government needed to remember that India was not, in fact, a Hindu state and could not therefore provide a right of return to populations. They also questioned the need for singling out these specific categories of people, ignoring the persecution of several other groups – like atheists within these nations or potential climate refugees.


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: