DARSHANA MITRA in The Wire
While many in India have recoiled at the manner in which the Trump administration has made religious discrimination a key ingredient of its refugee and immigration policy, we should also turn to look at similar legislative provisions being proposed in our own country.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 is a short, three-page document that seeks to amend Section 2(b) of the Citizenship Act. The Citizenship Act deals with the acquisition and termination of Indian citizenship. Section 2(b) of the Citizenship Act defines the term “illegal immigrant”. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill proposes to amend the definition of this term by adding this proviso:
“Provided that persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act.”.
This effectively means that persons from minority religious communities from our neighbouring Muslim majority countries shall not be considered as illegal migrants and subjected to prosecution. Further, the Bill also proposes an amendment to the Third Schedule of the Act, which would allow minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to qualify for naturalisation as a citizen of India if they are resident in India or in service to the Government of India for an aggregate period of not less than six years, as opposed to eleven years for everyone else.