On 11 December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA); on March 10, 2024, the government announced the implementation of the act. Similarly, the Indian government is planning to bring the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is presently implemented only in Assam. The government announced to register citizens in the near future throughout India; however, its implementation was delayed due to COVID-19. Following the implementation of CAA, there is less doubt that the Indian government will hesitate to implement NRC.

Implementation of CAA along with NRC will impact the Muslim community, exacerbating fears of discrimination and exclusion.

According to the CAA, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who came to India before 31st December 2014 from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will not be treated as illegal immigrants, they will be given Indian citizenship.

When it comes to NRC, the provisions state that those who won’t be able to provide proof of their residence before 25 March 1971, would be sent to detention centers or deported. For this purpose, India is building several detention centers before implementing NRC all over India. There are 10 detention centers currently operational in India and more are being built.

CAA legalizes all those non-Muslims who won’t be able to give proof of their stay before 25 March 1971 except Muslims, hence leaving the fate of Muslims in question. In Assam, NRC was enforced in 2014. Suppose the government registers citizens throughout India as registered in Assam. In that case, the CAA will give the edge to non-Muslims as they will get citizenship according to the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA).

In Assam, all non-Muslims who fulfilled the criteria under CAA were released affecting only Muslims. This implies that a non-Muslim illegal immigrant who arrived before December 31st, 2014, can apply for citizenship and be listed in the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Conversely, suppose a person is a legal Indian citizen but unable to furnish documents for any reason, rendering the government unable to determine their legality.

In that case, they will be deemed an illegal immigrant. Consequently, they may face deportation or imprisonment. India’s Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah compared Muslim immigrants to ‘termites’ and promised to rid India of them through legislation excluding Muslims from citizenship pathways. Such statements clearly indicate the intent of the BJP with regard to Muslims.

People of Assam opposed the idea of giving citizenship to any refugee or immigrant under CAA regardless of religion, fearing that this would change the region’s demographic record.

In Assam, till now 32.9 million people have submitted documents as evidence and 31 million people made it to NRC, leaving 1.9 million people’s fate in question. Those 1.9 million people in Assam, who do not have any document as a piece of evidence, are from all religions hence Indian government brought the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) which means only Muslims would be affected by NRC.

In 2019, massive protests took place in India after this bill was passed. Government faced a lot of resistance from the public. This Act involves discrimination on a religious basis despite India being a secular state. Especially, NRC and CAA target Muslims so they have strong reason to oppose it as Muslims are the only ones to be affected. All communities participated in protests against CAA and NRC as it questioned the basic system of India. Various NGOs and student organizations, across the country have criticized this law. Also, the Indian National Congress and other major political parties have announced their resolute opposition.

In the context of international law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) runs counter to fundamental rights, including the right to equality before the law and the right to non-discrimination, protected under human rights treaties such as the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and the “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”, to which India is a party.

In conclusion, The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying hard to discredit the campaign. The government while surpassing all democratic standards, was very harsh on protesters following the approval of CAA back in 2019. With the looming prospect of implementing the National Register of Citizens (NRC), tensions are anticipated to escalate further.

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