Indian CAA law is a positive step

Written by DInesh Dhamija on 28 January 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

The nature of India’s Citizen Amendment Act has been misunderstood and misrepresented when in fact it offers citizenship opportunities for many, writes Dinesh Dhamija

 

Dinesh Dhamija/Photo Credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


I am perplexed at the negative reaction from some EU politicians to India’s Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), which was introduced into the Indian Parliament in December 2019. As the chair of the EU Delegation for relations with India, I wish to put my personal views on this Act on record. 

In India, all citizens, including the 175 million Muslims (14 percent of India’s total population), enjoy the same rights. The CAA facilitates the claiming of citizenship by illegal non-Muslim immigrants or other persons who are unable to provide proof of residence.


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In India, all citizens, including the 175 million Muslims (14 percent of India’s total population), enjoy the same rights. The CAA facilitates the claiming of citizenship by illegal non-Muslim immigrants or other persons who are unable to provide proof of residence.

To understand the CAA, one has to consider the political situation in other South Asian countries. There has been persecution of religious minorities for decades in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

All three countries are Islamic republics; this is why we see citizens of minority communities (non-Muslim) pouring into India from these countries.

Persecution of religious minorities has mainly stopped in both Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but there are reports from immigrants from Pakistan, that this is not the case in that country.

“The CAA offers a legal solution – one that currently does not exist - for future migrants coming from Pakistan and other countries”

The CAA offers a legal solution – one that currently does not exist - for future migrants coming from Pakistan and other countries. For the record, the European

Parliament has raised many concerns relating precisely to the repression of minorities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These include the European Parliament’s Resolution 2018/2927(RSP) of 15 November 2018 on the human rights situation in Bangladesh, Resolution 2017/2932(RSP) of 14 December 2017 on the situation in Afghanistan and Resolution 2017/2723(RSP) of 15 June 2017 on the human rights situation in Pakistan.

Any critic from within the EU should carefully read these resolutions.

The CAA applies to illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and that are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian or Christian.

The CAA lowers the qualification period for becoming an Indian citizen for these people from 11 years to five, as long as they have entered India on or before 31 December 2014.

Any person that meets this requirement does not have to produce any documents to prove his or her citizenship under the Act.

The CAA will therefore help numerous people that previously were unable to provide the required documentation.

Despite the outcries of certain people, including students, and continuing protests in the northeast of India, the CAA does not deal with the forced deportation of illegal immigrants.

Indeed, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, and the Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah have consistently held that the CAA does not affect India’s external relations and India does not have any repatriation agreement with Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

Allegations that the CAA could lead to forced expulsion of Muslims are therefore, in my opinion, unfounded.

As India is a secular country, Muslims from anywhere in the world have equal rights to anyone else in the world to apply for Indian citizenship.

Nor does the CAA not cancel any laws of naturalisation.

The Act does not prevent any Muslim who has been or is persecuted for practicing their version of Islam (e.g. the Ahmadis from Afghanistan) from applying for Indian citizenship.

India is a secular country, while the other three countries mentioned are Islamic countries. Thus, all religions are accepted in India and the CAA only underlines this fact.

About the author

Dinesh Dhamija (UK,RE) is chair of Parliament's delegation to India

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