Friday, March 24, 2023
HomeIndiaWhat 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act says and why the outrage over it

What 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act says and why the outrage over it

India has seen several demonstrations over the new citizenship law with Delhi witnessing massive protests Thursday. ThePrint explains what’s changed in amended Act.

Text Size:

New Delhi: For the past week, protests — some violent, some peaceful — have broken out across the country over the amended citizenship law that was passed by Parliament last week.

The agitation that began in Assam, other parts of the Northeast and West Bengal soon spread to several university campuses — including Jamia Millia, AMU, Jadavpur University, TISS, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Madras.

On Thursday, many parts of Delhi saw an internet shutdown as well as massive traffic restrictions and diversions in view of two scheduled protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. At least 19 Metro stations were closed in the national capital.

As the demonstrations continue in several cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, ThePrint looks at what the issue is and how the new amendment changes the nature of the original Act.

What is the original citizenship amendment law and how is citizenship granted in India?

The nationality law of India is primarily based on citizenship by right of blood (jus sanguinis) and not a citizenship by right of birth within a territory (jus soli). Article 5 to Article 11 of the Indian Constitution governs Indian citizenship and the law in regard to this is the Citizenship Act of 1955.

The 1955 Act was amended six times — 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019. While the 2003 amendment mandated the government to have a National Register of Citizens, the latest one seeks to ease the citizenship process for the persecuted minorities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian — of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

What is the basic amendment that the 2019 Act brings to 1955 Act?

Non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan — will be granted Indian citizenship, provided they entered India before 31 December 2014.

The Act does not explicitly state that Muslims are barred, however, the fact that it spells out the religious communities that will benefit from the amendment makes it clear that Muslims have been kept out.

Also read: Liberal, secular opposition to CAA must not allow room for Islamic and Left radicals

Who will benefit from the amendment?

People from the explicitly stated six religions will be granted citizenship if they arrived in India before December 31 2014. Bluntly put, if people from these religious communities hailing from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan apply for citizenship, they will not be deported for not having documents, and will be granted citizenship.

The 1955 Act required a person applying for citizenship to have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The 2019 amendment relaxes this requirement from 11 years to five years for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from the three nations.

Who will be excluded?

The 2019 amendment Act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Also, areas that fall under the Inner Line Permit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview. This keeps almost entire Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland out of the ambit of the Act.

Next, according to the 2019 Act, a foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., a former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin.

The new Act also entitles the OCI cardholders to benefits such as the right to travel to India and to work and study in the country. However, the new law permits the cancellation of OCI registration if the person has violated any law notified by the central government.

How is 2019 citizenship law linked to NRC?

The NRC was updated in Assam recently — as part of a long-standing demand to identify those who have immigrated illegally, especially from Bangladesh, with 19 lakh people being excluded.

There is no overt connection between the two but they do feed into each other. In Assam’s context, the citizenship law means that of those left out of NRC, the Hindus will automatically get citizenship, leaving the Muslims out to take recourse to legal provisions.

This goes against the very basis of Assam’s anti-outsider movement and sentiment, that was religion-agnostic, and hence, the state has been up in arms.

In India’s context, Home Minister Shah’s constant pan-India NRC rhetoric has meant that this government has hyphenated it with the citizenship law, implying any citizenship determining process will have religious undertones.

Also read: Assam’s old 1970s fury back with Citizenship Act. This time for a new, young generation

Why are Indian Muslims angry with the law?

To answer it simply, the 2019 amendment Act is itself not a threat to the Muslim citizens of India. However, the real devil is in the details.

Before the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, Home Minister Amit Shah made it clear that there will be a national NRC, similar to that of Assam. So, in this case, after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, when NRC is carried out, it is a given that there will be mass exclusions due to the process demanding papers establishing lineage, etc.

Although, the exclusions are bound to include everyone from Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis to Muslims, all others barring Muslims will be saved by the 2019 citizenship law as it seeks to provide citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians of the neighbouring nations.

But Muslims, having no country to accept them and India having no provisions to grant them citizenship, could inevitably end up in detention camps.

Also read: This isn’t just about Muslims, say anti-CAA protesters in Delhi, blame police for chaos


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. Being an Indian… I do want the persecuted people of those three countries should gain citizenship in India…
    I want to share an experience with my friend…
    He asked me why are you opposing the act I said him its against the constitution.
    Friend: This act is just for people who are persecuted in these three countries so why you are opposing it don’t you want them to be safe here.
    Me: I’m not opposing the act the good thing by government but look what the finance minister of Assam said the only Hindus of Non-NRC list will be given citizenship. So what we need to understand with this.
    Against all this we know the importance of making NRC in India seeing the terrorism but when the countries economy is going down whats the thing of investing thousands kf crores in those survey…better bring a technology to India with that money

  2. What your column has missed is the fact that CAA has been specifically designed in the long run to encourage more and more Hindus from the 3 countries to immigrate to India even while more and more muslims of India will be rendered stateless across India forcing them to emigrate to Pak or other muslim countrIt is a very sinister discriminatory law to revive 2- nation theory of making India the Hindu Rashtra and not the plural land envisaged by our freedom fighters.

  3. Very beginning we must think which cause the Govt. to enact this CAA. No petition submitted by any state govt. or any political party except BJP to formulate this kind of Act on the basis of religion. BJP target this Act in its manifesto
    to get vote banks of Hindus and not on the basis humanitarian aspects. BJP always try to minimise vote banks of muslim which always stand against BJP. The CAA simply can do this. For example in Assam Mr.Ram and Mr. Rahim lives as on 2014. Both have no documents to prove their nationality. As Ram being Hindu become eligible for Indian citizenship by virtue of CAA as he need not to be produced any document but Rahim became infiltrades as he is Muslim. To get citizenship he has to apply and wait for years, is it correct. The rightful muslim citizen on 2014 became infiltrades on 2019. Is it justifiable, and hence muslim on streets to sustain their legitimate rights.

  4. The present agitation and protests are less likely to be the reasons narrated by the writer. It is a politically stirred and invited by the vested interest groups and political parties to gain mileage in elections.

  5. One-sided article, perhaps because the author chooses to keep one eye closed. Reasons:
    1. Nobody knows when there will be a nation-wide NRC. Amit Shah has only said there will be one.
    2. Amit Shah has NOT said, as the author suggests, that the NRC will be like Assam’s. See the last few episodes of Shekhar Gupta’s Cut the Clutter.
    3. It is impossible that the NRC will be implemented, given that most of the states are not ruled by BJP — Rajasthan, MP, Maharashtra, Odisha, WB, and Kerala will not implement it for sure. And it NRC cannot happen if half the country doesn’t implement it. See the last few episodes of Shekhar Gupta’s Cut the Clutter.
    4. It is downright stupid to believe that any government–whatever its intentions–can tell 170 million people that they are not citizens of the country.

  6. By the learned writer’s view 70% (assuming rural) of India cannot provide documents – including Hindus. But 70% of this sample (Hindus) will get citizenships by this new law.! Amazing logic!!

  7. This is a half baked article. Isn’t it true that before the 2019 amendments, there is no provision for an illegal immigrant of any religion to get citizenship in India? And your conclusion is deeply flawed because ‘all others barring Muslims will be saved by the 2019 citizenship law’ will not include any person who is not from the 3 countries. Which means everyone irrespective of the religion.

  8. Bismillah,Inshallah,Allah Hu akbar are arabic words which means Bismillah means i begin in the name of Allah which every muslim has to say before eating his food or drinking water. Alhamdul lillah is also an arabic word,praising Great God Allah or all praise be to Allah for granting boons or removing troubles.Allah Hu Akbar means God is Great,usually used for surmounting difficulties or unexpected Gains etc.So you see,all those arabic words are rehearsed by many muslims all over the world,many times a day. They are basically meant to keep muslims closer to Great Allah,to whom every Muslim/Human being has to go for accountability in the next world.

  9. “But Muslims, having no country to accept them and India having no provisions to grant them citizenship, could inevitably end up in detention camps.”

    As a point of clarity. Why would India not have any provisions to grant them citizenship? If they can demonstrate that they’ve been in India for 11 of the last 14 years, won’t they automatically qualify for Naturalization?

    It would have also been useful if the author had gone into the NRC appeals process in some detail, especially given the fact that reverse migration of self-identified Muslims across the border into Bangladesh has been slowly building up over the last few months.

    Finally, the author has a legal background, and would clearly be aware of the need to use precise language. One could end up anywhere, but inevitably one would end up somewhere.

    • There is no such thing as “automatic Naturalization” anywhere, even if you have lived in that country for 100 years WITHOUT A BREAK OF EVEN ONE DAY! You could still be turned down, WITHOUT EVEN YOU BEING GIVEN A REASON FOR IT! YES, YO U QUALIFY FOR NATURALIZATION, BUT YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO IT! IT IS LIKE VISA FOR A COUNTRY. Your application fior it may be good, but still it could be turned down! No reason given!

  10. This country was going good – with all religions and communities happy. May our progeny forgive us for the mess we are leaving for them.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular