Recently, India passed a new law that grants citizenship to religious minorities from Muslim-majority countries namely Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but does not include Muslim immigrants.
The new legislation, known as the Citizenship Amendment Bill, is an amendment to India’s Citizenship Act 1955. It aims to grant nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis, who arrived in India before 2015.
The law also accelerates the citizenship process for non-Muslim immigrants. Earlier, the 1955 Act prescribed immigrants to prove residency of 11 years.
It has now been reduced to six years.
Therefore, non-Muslim immigrants, if they do not hold valid documentations, will not be deported. However, Muslims will continue to be seen as illegal immigrants as the law does not offer them any protection.
Under India’s The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, illegal immigrants can be jailed and deported.
The citizenship bill, however, will not be applicable to some areas of the northeastern states, which had protested against the legislation, including some parts of Assam, Tripura, Meghalayan and Mizoram.
The critics denounce that the bill specifically targets Muslims, and unfairly shows religion a condition for applying for citizenship.
This, according to them, is a violation of Article 14 of the Indian constitution, which promises the right to equality.