Citizenship Amendment Act protests

Citizenship Amendment Act
Part of the protests of 2019
JMI students and locals protesting against CAA NRC.jpg
Anti CAA protests in Guwahati.jpg
Shaheen Bagh protestors blocking a major road in New Delhi for 28 days Visual taken on 11 Jan 2020.jpg
Locals protest against CAB CAA (cropped).jpg
Peoples long march CAA and NRC at ernakulam, kerala 9.jpg
(Counterclockwise from top) Jamia Milia Islamia students protesting, protests in Guwahati, Meghalaya, Kerala and Shaheen Bagh (New Delhi), protesters stopping traffic.
Date4 December 2019 (2019-12-04) – present
Location
Caused by
Goals
MethodsProtesters: Civil disobedience, demonstrations, Dharna, Gherao, hunger strikes, Satyagraha, Hartal, vandalism, arsons, stone pelting, hashtag activism, general strike (Bandh)
Government: Mass Shooting by police, Riot police, stone pelting, vandalism, lathi charge, Mass arrest, Internet shutdown, curfew, transport restrictions, water cannon, imposing ban on assembly (Section 144)
StatusOngoing
Parties to the civil conflict
  • Multiple groups of citizens throughout India

Students Organisations

Other Organisations


Supported by:

Lead figures
Narendra Modi[29]
(Prime Minister of India)
Amit Shah[30]
(Minister of Home Affairs)
Nitin Gadkari[31]
(Minister of Road Transport and Highways)
Jagat Prakash Nadda[32]
(Working President of BJP)
Himanta Biswa Sarma[33]
(National convener of NEDA)
Sarbananda Sonowal[34]
(Chief Minister of Assam)
Yogi Adityanath
(Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh)
B. S. Yediyurappa[35]
(Chief Minister of Karnataka)
(Non centralised leadership)

Mamata Banerjee[36]
(Chief Minister of West Bengal)
Pinarayi Vijayan
(Chief Minister of Kerala)


Centralised leadership
(Politicians and activists)
Kanhaiya Kumar[37][38]
Kannan Gopinathan[39]
Priyanka Gandhi[40]
Kavita Krishnan
Sitaram Yechury
Asaduddin Owaisi[41]
Yogendra Yadav
Akhil Gogoi (arrested)
Chandrashekhar Azad (arrested)
D. Raja
Binoy Viswam
Rahul Gandhi
Tushar Gandhi[42]
Umar Khalid[43]
Feroze Mithiborwala[44][45]


(Scholars, writers, artists)

Ramachandra Guha[46]
Arundhati Roy[47]
Harsh Mander[48]
Javed Akhtar
Varun Grover
Zubeen Garg[49]
Swara Bhaskar[50]
Zeeshan Ayyub[51]
Anurag Kashyap[52]
Casualties
Death(s)27[54](including 3 minors)[55][56]
Injuries175[53] (reported as of 16 December)
Arrested3000+[57] (reported as of 17 December)

The Citizenship Amendment Act protests, also known as the CAA and NRC protests, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and National Register of Citizens protests, or the CAB and NRC protests, are a series of ongoing protests in India, against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which was enacted into law on 12 December 2019, and against proposals to enact a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).[58] The protests began in Assam,[59] Delhi,[60] Meghalaya,[61] Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura on 4 December 2019.[36] In a few days, the protests spread across India, though the concerns of the protesters vary.[3][62]

The Amendment benefits Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi refugees[63] from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who sought refuge in India before 2015; the Amendment leaves out Muslims and others from these countries, as well as refugee Sri Lankan Tamils in India, Rohingyas from Myanmar, and Buddhist refugees from Tibet.[64][65] The proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be an official record of all legal citizens of India where individuals would have to provide a prescribed set of documents issued before a specified cutoff date for inclusion in the register. The exercise of the NRC has already been carried out in the state of Assam.[66] Those who fail to qualify for the NRC will be able to avail the benefits of the CAA if they claim to be religious minorities fleeing persecution from the listed countries.[63]

Protesters throughout India, see the new law as discriminating against Muslims and as unconstitutional; they are demanding the amendment to be scrapped and the nationwide NRC to be not implemented.[67][68] They are concerned Muslim citizens of India will be rendered stateless and put into detention camps, by the proposed nationwide NRC in combination with the CAA.[69][70][71] They are also concerned that all citizens will be affected by the bureaucratic exercise of the NRC where they will have to prove their citizenship for inclusion in the registry.[72][73] The protesters have raised voices against authoritarianism, the police crackdown in other universities and suppression of protests.[3][74]

Protesters in Assam and other northeastern states do not want Indian citizenship to be granted to any refugee or immigrant, regardless of their religion, as they fear it would alter the region's demographic balance, resulting in a loss of their political rights, culture, and land.[75][76][77] They are concerned that it will motivate further migration from Bangladesh as well as violate the Assam Accord, which was a prior agreement reached with the central government on migrants and refugees.[75][76][77]

The protests started in Assam on 4 December 2019, after the bill was introduced in parliament. Later on, protests erupted in Northeast India, and subsequently spread to the major cities of India. On 15 December, major protests took place near Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University. As the protests spread, private and public property was burnt and destroyed by mobs, and some railway stations were vandalized.[78][79][80] Police forcibly entered the campus of Jamia, used batons and tear gas on the students, and more than 200 students were injured and around 100 were detained overnight in the police station. The police action was widely criticized and resulted in students across the country protesting in solidarity.[81][82]

The protests have resulted in thousands of arrests and 27 deaths as of 27 December 2019.[83][54] Two 17-year old minors were among those reported to have been killed due to police firing live ammunition on protesters in Assam.[84] On 19 December, the police issued a complete ban on protests in several parts of India. As a result of defying the ban, thousands of protesters were detained. So far, at least eight states have announced that they will not implement the Act or the National Register of Citizens (NRC). While one state and two union territories[85] have refused to implement the CAA, three other states[86][87] have only declined the implementation of the NRC. However the Union Home Ministry said that states lack the legal power to stop the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act.

Background

A child taking part in an anti-CAB NRC protest with Jamia Millia Islamia students and locals.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) is an act, passed by the Parliament of India, which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant a swifter path to Indian citizenship under the assumption of religious persecution to any individual belonging to the specific minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014.[88] However, the Act does not mention Muslims and does not offer the same eligibility benefits to Muslim immigrants or immigrants belonging to other religions. The Act also does not mention any benefits for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who are living in India, having fled persecution during the Sri Lankan Civil War.[89][90]

The Amendment only benefits Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who sought refuge in India before 2015,[91] but leaves out Muslims and others from these countries, and refugees from other countries, who will remain illegal foreigners.[92][93] Among the excluded refugees are Tamil Hindu refugees from Sri Lanka, Rohingya Muslim and Hindu refugees from Myanmar, and Buddhist refugees from Tibet.[94]

The Act also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for migrants covered under the Act.[95][96][97] According to the Intelligence Bureau, the immediate beneficiaries of the new law will be 25,447 Hindus, 5,807 Sikhs, 55 Christians, 2 Buddhists and 2 Parsis.[98]

Response

The passage of the Act sparked massive protests in India.[96] Protesters in Assam and other northeastern states oppose the grant of Indian citizenship to any refugee or immigrant, regardless of their religion, because they fear it would alter the region's demographic balance. They have campaigned since the 1970s against all refugees, and they fear that the new law will cause a loss of their political rights, culture and land.[75][76][77] They are also concerned that it will trigger more migration from Bangladesh as well as violate the Assam Accord, which was a prior agreement reached with the central government on migrants and refugees.[75][76][77] After the act was passed, protests in the northeastern region turned violent. Authorities had arrested over 3000 protesters as of 17 December 2019,[57] and some news outlets have described these protests as riots.[99] Protesters say that the Act violates Clause 5 and Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord.[100]

Critics have stated that the amendment Act is unconstitutional.[101][102][103] The major opposition political parties state that it violates Constitution's Article 14, one that guarantees equality to all. They allege that the new law seeks to make Muslims second-class citizens of India, while preferentially treating non-Muslims in India.[104]

Critics of the Act have stated that due to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Muslims could be made stateless, while the Citizenship Amendment Act would be able to shield people with Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian identity as a means of providing them with Indian citizenship even if they failed to prove that they were citizens of India under the stringent requirements of the NRC. Some critics allege that it is a deliberate attempt at disenfranchising and segregating Muslims in line with the ethnonationalist Hindutva ideology of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).[105][64][106] The home minister Amit Shah had previously set a deadline for the implementation of a countrywide NRC by stating that the register would be rolled out before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.[107]

The Act was criticized by various NGOs, students bodies and liberal, progressive, and socialist organizations across the country, with the Indian National Congress and other major political parties announcing their staunch opposition. Protests led by these groups are concerned that the new law discriminates against Muslims, and believe that Indian citizenship should also be granted to Muslim refugees and immigrants. The states of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand[108] and Chhattisgarh – all ruled by non-BJP political parties – have announced that they will not implement either the National Register of Citizens (NRC) or the Citizenship Amendment Act. The states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha have however refused to only implement the NRC, while the state of Punjab and the union territories of Delhi and Puducherry have refused to implement the Act while only expressing disapproval of the NRC.[109][110][111]

The states of West Bengal and Kerala have also put a hold on all activities relating to the preparation and update of the National Population Register which is necessary for the Census as well as the implementation of the National Register of Citizens.[112] Although some of the states have opposed the Act, the Union Home Ministry clarified that states lack the legal power to stop the implementation of CAA. The Ministry stated that "The new legislation has been enacted under the Union List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. The states have no power to reject it."[113] The Indian Union Muslim League and various other bodies have also petitioned the Supreme Court of India to strike down the Act as illegal and unconstitutional.[114]

Underlying Causes

According to Yashwant Sinha, a former administrator, Minister of Finance and Minister of External Affairs under Prime Ministers Chandra Shekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee respectively, the unrest witnessed is also caused due to the economic crisis facing the country where the issue of CAA-NRC has acted as a trigger for it.[115] The Indian economy has been witnessing a decreasing growth rate,[116] increasing household debt,[117] inflation,[118] unemployment[119] and economic inequality.[120] Raghuram Rajan, an Indian economist and 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, attributed it to an "extreme centralization of power" under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[121]

The State Bank of India estimates a growth rate of 4.6% for the financial year 2020,[122] which would be the lowest since the 2008 Global Recession where the growth rate had been 3.9%.[123] The unemployment rate of India was reported to have reached a 45 year high of 6.1% in the financial year of 2017-2018.[124] The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy stated the unemployment rate to be 8.45% with a rate of 37.48% for the 20-24 age group and 12.81% for the 25-29 age group in October 2019.[125] According to the 2019 report of the Pew Research Center, 393.7 million jobs are in a vulnerable state.[126]

The Oxfam India data states that the richest 1% of the population's control over the country's wealth increased from 58% to 73% between 2018-2019, while the wealth of the poorest 50% increased by 1%. According to Nisha Agarwal, CEO of Oxfam India, "the billionaire boom is not the sign of a thriving economy but the symptom of a failing economic system".[127]

Protesters have agitated against the economic distress and expressed support for labour unions opposing the government's "anti-labour policies"[128][129] Farmers and labour unions have been agitating against the economic policies of the government have also demanded for the withdrawal of the CAA and the associated NRC-NPR process.[130] Various opposition parties supporting the protests have announced that they will bring up economic crisis as an issue of protest alongside CAA and NRC.[131] Several opposition and protesting leaders have stated that the issue of CAA and NRC were brought about to divert the political discourse away from the economic condition of the country.[132][133][134]

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