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THE CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has sparked intense debate and controversy since its introduction. Its primary aim is to provide a pathway to citizenship for specific groups of migrants who have entered India, even if they lack valid travel documents as required by the Citizenship Act of 1955. Notably, the CAA reduces the period of residency required for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5, a significant reduction that has drawn both support and criticism.

 

Central to the CAA is the presumption that individuals belonging to certain religious communities - namely Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian - fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan have sought refuge in India. The Act is framed on the belief that these communities have faced religious persecution in their countries of origin, necessitating a humanitarian response from India.

 

However, the CAA's implementation necessitates specific requirements from immigrants seeking citizenship. Firstly, they must provide evidence of their country of origin, indicating their displacement from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. Secondly, they must belong to one of the aforementioned religious communities, underscoring the Act's emphasis on providing refuge to persecuted minorities. Additionally, immigrants must specify the date of their entry into India, establishing their timeline of residency within the country. Lastly, they are expected to demonstrate proficiency in an Indian language, emphasising integration into Indian society as a criterion for citizenship.

 

Despite its stated humanitarian goals, the CAA has faced criticism on various fronts. Critics argue that by selectively granting citizenship based on religious identity, the Act undermines the secular fabric of India's constitution. Moreover, concerns have been raised about the exclusion of Muslim communities from the Act's purview, leading to accusations of discrimination and communal polarisation. The CAA's proponents, however, maintain that it serves as a necessary measure to protect persecuted religious minorities and uphold India's historical commitment to providing sanctuary to those in need.

 

The CAA has become a focal point in Indian politics, stirring passionate debates about the country's identity, secular principles, and commitment to inclusive citizenship. As legal challenges and public discourse continue to shape the narrative surrounding the Act, its implications for India's social fabric and international standing remain subjects of ongoing scrutiny and discussion.


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