Even as the country continues to swell in anger against it, the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which promises citizenship to only non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring Muslim countries, came into effect on Friday, an official notification from the Home Ministry said.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of the section 1 of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (47 of 2019), the Central Government hereby appoints the 10th day of January, 2020, as the date on which the provisions of the said Act shall come into force,” the notification said.
According to the Citizenship Amendment Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. The Act intentionally leaves out Muslims.
The BJP-led government has said the new law will be followed by a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that means Muslims must prove they were original residents of India and not refugees from these three countries. Non-Muslims listed in the law, by contrast, have a clear path to citizenship.
Those who are opposed to the legislation say that it is for the first time that India will grant citizenship on the basis of religion which violates the basic tenets of the country’s constitution.
The religiously discriminatory mechanisms of the Act shares worrying similarities with the rhetoric and policies of the Nazi German state between 1929-1940.
At least 25 people have died and hundreds have been detained so far in protests over the CAA during which police have been accused of using excessive force and of selectively targeting Muslims. Tens of thousands of people have participated in the protests across India, and abroad.
The Act has triggered numerous petitions in the Supreme Court challenging its validity. A petition has also been filed in support of the Amendment and calling on the Supreme Court to act against those spreading information other than what the government thinks is correct about the legislation.
The Apex Court, which issued a notice in a batch of 60 petitions challenging various aspects of the Amendment, is due to hear the matter later this month, on January 22.