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Assam students' union protests proposed amendment of Citizenship Act: Here's what you should know

The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) has been protesting against the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 – introduced in Lok Sabha on 19 July – for granting refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan citizenship. They have been taking out marches across the state since 18 October.

Stating that the AASU will not accept giving religious colour to the illegal Bangladeshi issue and the proposed amendment is an example of political injustice, AASU adviser Samujjwal Bhattacharya said, "The proposed amendment to the Bill is a threat to the identity of local people. Since Independence, North East has been subjected to economic exploitation and political injustice.

 Assam students union protests proposed amendment of Citizenship Act: Heres what you should know

Representational image. Reuters

"The latest Bill is another example of political injustice. The Centre is treating us as second class citizens."

Stating that if the Centre was actually encouraging infiltration by bringing in the amendment to the Citizenship Act, Bhattacharya warned of sustained movements across Assam if the Bill was not withdrawn immediately.

What is The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016?

The proposed 2016 Amendment Bill of the Citizenship Act 1955 – currently under consideration of the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament – will make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.

It is, however, required of the applicant to have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years. The Bill, however, relaxes this 11 year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

The Bill would also violate the fundamental of Assam Accord of 1985, where the illegal migrants who had entered Assam from Bangladesh after  25 March, 1971, were to be extradited.

Key aspect of the Bill

The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences (eg. parking in a no parking zone).

This amendment may also violate the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion.

Article 14, which assures equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, only permits laws to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose.

According to the PRS legislative brief, the reasons fails to explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion they belong to.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2016 11:23:00 IST

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