AA Edit | Is CAA really necessary?

Citizenship Amendment Act operationalised amid Lok Sabha elections

Update: 2024-05-16 18:35 GMT
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla hands over the first set of citizenship certificates under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), in New Delhi, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (PTI Photo)(

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act has just been operationalised with the granting of citizenship to 300 persons many of whom have faced religious persecution in their country of domicile and so sought out India as a haven.

To say such naturalised citizens of India are elated may be an understatement, but the implementation of the law — it has been on the statute for close to five years — during the elections to the Lok Sabha is bound to make it continuously contentious in a country of religious diversity.

The CAA grants citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis who arrived in India from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014, but not to, say, Sri Lankan Tamils even if they belong to any of those religions and certainly not to Rohingyas. It does not snatch citizenship from Indian residents of any religion, and it has nothing to do with the proposed National Register of Citizens, according to the ruling party’s major leaders now. But the fear is the two may be used in conjunction at some point of time in the future and put in peril the many illegal Muslim refugees who may be in the country.

Considering the Union government has the right any way to grant citizenship to those who seek it even if they are illegal refugees, the need for a CAA was always more political than practical. It is so fraught with religious discrimination that India’s 18 crore Muslims must feel alienated.

The legal challenges to the CAA lies in hundreds of fresh petitions besides the 200 or so lying before the Supreme Court since December 2019. A basic and significant challenge is that the CAA discriminates against Muslims based on religion and so violates the right to equality under Article 14 and, perhaps, Article 25 as well.

The opinions on the CAA, in itself a benevolent legislation that takes into account religious discrimination against non-Muslims in some neighbouring countries, are so divided on partisan lines that it is difficult to see it in isolation save as politically driven by one party with an agenda. The introduction of religion as a criterion for citizenship makes this a departure from the country’s secular values. Does India need more layers of divisiveness?


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