Mixed messages heightening apprehension on CAA: Experts

Mixed messages heightening apprehension on CAA: Experts

Journalist Rohini Mohan talks about the Citizenship Amendment Act at the National Law School of India University on Sunday. Courtesy: NLSIU

Lack of clarity and mixed messages from the government on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is driving social uncertainty about what the law means for the existing citizens of India, experts said on Sunday.

Freelance journalist Rohini Mohan, who has reported on the implementation of the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, and constitutional scholar Gautham Bhatia discussed the dual nature of the CAA and NRC during a two-hour event at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) on Sunday evening.

“The key question that constantly arises out of the government’s planned implementation of the CAA is how will these supposedly persecuted people that the government intends to bring to India prove that they were victimised in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan,” Mohan said.

Rohini added lack of clarity on the CAA had given rise to a swell of uncertainty about how the law would affect existing residents of India.

She clarified that one reason for this is that legalities of Indian citizenship are unclear. Unlike the US, where you get citizenship if you happen to be born there, in India, citizenship is not automatically conferred at birth. Instead, a person is considered as an Indian in a variety of ways, including by naturalisation, Rohini explained.

“One of the core, primary ways is by descent or ancestry,” Rohini added.

The result, according to her, is that a range of people in Assam (1.9 million) had been left out of the final NRC, which was released in August last year.

Bhatia, NLSIU alumni who challenged the constitutionality of Article 377 and the Aadhar project, said the idea of equality in India has evolved over time, and equality was no longer just about classification.

“But in recent cases, it has been made clear that if you discriminate against people based on personal characteristics that they have no control over, such as their country of origin or their religion, that is unconstitutional under Article 14,” he clarified.

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