Protests across the country greet the Citizenship Amendment Act


What happened to the Citizenship Amendment Bill? The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has now become an Act (CAA). A Bill is a draft law proposal that is introduced to the Parliament of India. It has to be passed by both houses (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) and signed off by the President of the country. It then becomes an Act of Parliament. After that, there has to be a mention of it in the Gazette (a public journal where the Government prints official notices) notification, mentioning the date from when it would take effect. 

How did India respond? People all over the country are protesting the new law. They think that it discriminates against Muslims. People from all walks of life, from senior citizens to students, all across the country, came out in large numbers to speak out against the Act. Some State Governments like Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal implement the CAA. The Kerala Assembly even passed a resolution asking the central Government to repeal, or rollback, the Act. Though these are more ‘symbolic’ rather than being legal (citizenship is something only the Government of India can decide), it definitely shows what people across the country are feeling. While some protests turned violent, especially in Uttar Pradesh, on the whole, the protests have all been peaceful and democratic.   

On the other hand, in Assam, there were protests of a different kind. The people of the region believe that thousands who have fled since Bangladesh Independence in 1971 and continue to leave will come into the state. These large numbers will put pressure on state resources and, they believe, could threaten local culture. 

What happens next? The Government has taken a strong stand and has said that it will not roll back  the law. It is confident that it will be implemented. However, there are over 20 petitions in the Supreme Court that are challenging the Act, saying that it is against the Constitution. The petitions say that the Act is against Article 13 (right to equality), Article 15 (which prohibits discrimination) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Indian Constitution. The Court has asked the Government to give their response to the petitions by January 22, the date for the next hearing.

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

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