Browsing Tag



New Delhi may not approve ILP in Meghalaya

Meghalaya government’s proposal to introduce Inner-line Permit (ILP) regime in the state may not get the approval of New Delhi.

The Meghalaya Assembly on December 19 adopted a resolution for implementing ILP, which will impose restrictions on the entry of ‘outsiders’ in the hill state.

The resolution was moved by chief minister Conrad K Sangma, and members across party lines, including the ruling BJP, supported it.

The one day special session was conducted on December 19 to pass the resolution in view of the demand by the indigenous people of the state for implementation of the ILP.

During the last few decades, pressure groups, mostly students unions and youth organizations, have been demanding for ILP in Meghalaya.

After the resolution by the assembly, the Meghalaya government urged New Delhi to implement ILP under the Eastern Bengal Frontier Regulation, 1873, in the state.

High-level sources in New Delhi told media on Saturday that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has no immediate plans to introduce ILP in Meghalaya.

The ILP regime was extended to Manipur on December 11 with President Ram Nath Kovind signing the order.

A notification in this regard was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The sources said the Ministry of Home Affairs, taking into account the prospect of growth of the tourism sector, is yet to decide on Meghalaya government’s proposal for introduction of ILP.

Senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs are reportedly still indecisive on the ILP demand in Meghalaya.

The MHA officials are reportedly of the opinion that since entire Meghalaya were never covered by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873 even during the British era, so question of introduction of ILP in the state does not arise now.

At present, ILP is applicable in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

It is also being argued that since Meghalaya is a Sixth Schedule state, the need for implementation of ILP “to safeguard and protect the rights of the indigenous people” does not arise.

Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy’s delay in giving assent to the ordinance amending the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016 was also an indicator that New Delhi was not in favour of restricting movement of “outsiders” in the state.

Moreover, Meghalaya is a “transit state”, and people travelling by road to Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur and even Barak Valley in South Assam pass through the state.

And if ILP is introduced in Meghalaya, there would be major complications for the transit passengers.

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have also reported that the NPP-led government had adopted the resolution to calm people’s ire after MP from Tura Agatha K. Sangma had voted in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Since the onus is now on the Centre to introduce ILP in Meghalaya, pressure groups of Meghalaya have vowed to continue with their movement.

On the other hand, people who are directly or indirectly involved in tourism business in Meghalaya, are not happy with the government’s decision to introduce ILP as it is going to kill the tourism industry. (NE Now)

Human Rights

Citizenship Act protests: Several dead and thousands held in India

Three people have died in India and thousands have been detained amid demonstrations against a controversial new citizenship law.

A protest ban has been imposed in parts of the capital Delhi and throughout the states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

The new law offers citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Critics fear the law undermines India’s secular constitution, and say faith should not be the basis of citizenship.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dismissed their concerns, and said the opposition had been spreading lies.

There have been days of protests against the law. India’s home minister has called a crisis meeting to discuss the demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the country on Thursday, despite the police order based on a severely restrictive law which prohibits more than four people from gathering in a place.

Two people died in the city of Mangalore after officers opened fire on demonstrators allegedly trying to set fire to a police station.

Commissioner Dr PS Harsha told reporters that a curfew is in place in the city, and that he was waiting for a post mortem before announcing the cause of death for either man. Internet services have also been suspended in Mangalore for 48 hours.

Another man also died in the city of Lucknow, where violent clashes between demonstrators and police earlier in the day saw vehicles set alight. More than a dozen officers were injured and 112 people were reportedly detained in the city.

A burnt bus in Lucknow
Image captionBuses were burnt in the city of Lucknow

Civil society groups, political parties, students, activists and ordinary citizens put out a steady stream of messages on Instagram and Twitter, urging people to turn out and protest peacefully.

Among those who were briefly detained were Ramachandra Guha, a prominent historian and outspoken critic of the government, in the southern city of Bangalore; and political activist Yogendra Yadav in Delhi.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newshour programme, Mr Guha said he had been arrested with hundreds of others from various different backgrounds, “which clearly shows that a large section of Indians are actually opposed to this discriminatory legislation”.

Thousands gathered to demonstrate in Mumbai. Bollywood actors and filmmakers were expected to join the demonstration there.

What is the law about?

The law – known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The federal government says this is to protect religious minorities fleeing persecution in the three Muslim-majority countries.

But what has made the law especially controversial is that it comes in the wake of the government’s plan to publish a nationwide register of citizens that it says will identify illegal immigrants – namely, anyone who doesn’t have the documents to prove that their ancestors lived in India.

A National Register of Citizens (NRC) – published in the north-eastern state of Assam – saw 1.9 million people effectively made stateless.

The NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Act are closely linked as the latter will protect non-Muslims who are excluded from the register and face the threat of deportation or internment.

Why are people protesting against it?

Many Muslim citizens fear that they could be made stateless if they don’t have the necessary documents; and critics also say the law is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in India’s constitution.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the law would have “no effect on citizens of India, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Buddhists”.

He also blamed the opposition for the protests, accusing them of “spreading lies and rumours” and “instigating violence” and “creating an atmosphere of illusion and falsehood”.

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against India's new citizenship law in Mumbai on December 19, 2019


Human Rights

Missing from India’s citizenship law: 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees

Missing from India’s citizenship law: 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees

Nearly 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees living in India are not eligible for citizenship under a new law, sparking concerns they may be forced to return to the island nation they fled during a decades-long civil war, many with no homes to return to.

A Sri Lankan Tamil refugee cleans utensils outside her house in a refugee camp in Perambalur district, about 250km from Chennai [File: Nathan G/EPA]

A Sri Lankan Tamil refugee cleans utensils outside her house in a refugee camp in Perambalur district, about 250km from Chennai [File: Nathan G/EPA]

India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) aims to fast-track citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The law excludes nearly 100,000 Sri Lanka‘s Tamils, an ethnic minority, who live in India, including about 60,000 in camps in southern Tamil Nadu state, according to the home department.

Most of these refugees are Hindu or Christian, whose forefathers were born in India, said S Velayutham, an advocacy officer at the non-profit Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation in the southern city of Chennai.

“Many were sent by the British as indentured labourers on Sri Lankan tea plantations, and hoped for a better life in India when they came here during the war,” he said.

“Some 25,000 children were also born in the camps. They do not know any country but India, but now they may have no choice but to go to Sri Lanka,” he told Reuters news agency.

A Tamil Nadu government official who oversees Sri Lankan refugees in the state did not return calls seeking comment.

Tamil refugees
A Sri Lankan Tamil refugee takes water from a hand pump outside a common toilet in a refugee camp at Thuraimangalam in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district [File: Nathan G/EPA]

‘Extremely disturbing’

Earlier, state government officials said Home Minister Amit Shah had promised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami he would consider the issue of Tamil refugees excluded from CAA.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a rally on Sunday, said the government has introduced reforms without any religious bias.

Thousands of people were killed in Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended in May 2009 after nearly three decades.

Tens of thousands fled, or were forced from their homes in the country’s north and east, and many sought refuge in neighbouring India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

While many of them would like to return to Sri Lanka, repatriation has been slow because there is scant assurance on homes and jobs, human rights groups said. Many had their properties seized during the war.

In Tamil Nadu, the refugees get free education, healthcare, rations and a modest allowance but they have limited access to jobs and cannot get official documents.

The decision to exclude some marginalised groups from the CAA is “extremely disturbing”, said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at advocacy group Human Rights Watch, calling on the government to revoke the CAA.

Thousands of Indians have taken to the streets to protest the new law, as well as plans for a National Register of Citizens (NRC), with at least 25 people killed in clashes with police in the biggest challenge to Modi’s leadership since 2014.


Human Rights, Politics

What is CAB ? Isn’t it a injustice and deprivation to Assam


further to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Seventieth Year of the Republic of India as
1. (1) This Act may be called the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
(2) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification
in the Official Gazette, appoint.
Short title and
Bill No. 370 of 2019
2. In the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), in section 2,
in sub-section (1), in clause (b), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—
“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or
Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into
India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the
Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the
Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the
Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as
illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”.
3. After section 6A of the principal Act, the following section shall be inserted,
‘6B. (1) The Central Government or an authority specified by it in this behalf
may, subject to such conditions, restrictions and manner as may be prescribed, on an
application made in this behalf, grant a certificate of registration or certificate of
naturalisation to a person referred to in the proviso to clause (b) of sub-section (1) of
section 2.
(2) Subject to fulfilment of the conditions specified in section 5 or the
qualifications for naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule, a
person granted the certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation under
sub-section (1) shall be deemed to be a citizen of India from the date of his entry into
(3) On and from the date of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment)
Act, 2019, any proceeding pending against a person under this section in respect of
illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship to him:
Provided that such person shall not be disqualified for making application for
citizenship under this section on the ground that the proceeding is pending against
him and the Central Government or authority specified by it in this behalf shall not
reject his application on that ground if he is otherwise found qualified for grant of
citizenship under this section:
Provided further that the person who makes the application for citizenship
under this section shall not be deprived of his rights and privileges to which he was
entitled on the date of receipt of his application on the ground of making such
(4) Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya,
Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the
area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier
Regulation, 1873.’.
4. In section 7D of the principal Act,—
(i) after clause (d), the following clause shall be inserted, namely:—
“(da) the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder has violated any of the
provisions of this Act or provisions of any other law for time being in force as
may be specified by the Central Government in the notification published in the
Official Gazette; or”.
(ii) after clause (f), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—
“Provided that no order under this section shall be passed unless the
Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder has been given a reasonable opportunity
of being heard.”.
5. In section 18 of the principal Act, in sub-section (2), after clause (ee), the following
clause shall be inserted, namely:—
“(eei) the conditions, restrictions and manner for granting certificate of
registration or certificate of naturalisation under sub-section (1) of section 6B;”.
of section 2.
Reg. 5 of 1873.
34 of 1920.
31 of 1946.
Insertion of
new section 6B.
provisions as
to citizenship
of person
covered by
proviso to
clause (b) of
sub-section (1)
of section 2.
of section 7D.
of section 18.
57 of 1955.
6. In the Third Schedule to the principal Act, in clause (d), the following proviso shall
be inserted, namely:—
‘Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or
Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of
residence or service of Government in India as required under this clause shall be
read as “not less than five years” in place of “not less than eleven years”.’.


What Home Ministry published about CAB

Home Affairs
  • Introduced
    Lok Sabha
    Dec 09, 2019
  • Passed
    Lok Sabha
    Dec 09, 2019

The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds.  A person may become an Indian citizen if they are born in India or have Indian parentage or have resided in the country for a period of time, etc.  However, illegal migrants are prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship.  An illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.[1]

Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.  The 1946 and the 1920 Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.  In 2015 and 2016, the central government issued two notifications exempting certain groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and the 1920 Acts.[2]  These groups are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.2  This implies that these groups of illegal migrants will not be deported or imprisoned for being in India without valid documents.

In 2016, a Bill was introduced to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.[3]  The Bill sought to make illegal migrants belonging to these six religions and three countries eligible for citizenship and made some changes in the provisions on registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.  It was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, which submitted its report on January 7, 2019.[4]  The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019.[5]  However, it lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.  Subsequently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is being introduced in Lok Sabha in December 2019.

The 2019 Bill seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.  It exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision.  The Bill also makes amendments to provisions related to OCI cardholders.  A foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin.  This will entitle them to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country.  The Bill amends the Act to allow cancellation of OCI registration if the person has violated any law notified by the central government.

Table 1 below compares the provisions of the 2016 Bill (as passed by Lok Sabha) with that of the 2019 Bill.

Table 1: Comparison of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as passed by Lok Sabha, with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (as passed by Lok Sabha) Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019
  • Eligibility for citizenship for certain illegal migrants:  The Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. Illegal migrants are foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel document, or stay beyond the permitted time.
  • The Bill amended the Act to provide that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be treated as illegal migrants.  In order to get this benefit, they must have also been exempted from the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 by the central government.  The 1920 Act mandates foreigners to carry passport, while the1946 Act regulates the entry and departure of foreigners in India.
  • The Bill further stated from the date of its enactment, all legal proceedings pending against such an illegal migrant will be closed.
  • The Bill adds two additional provisions on citizenship to illegal migrants belonging to these religions from the three countries.
  • Consequences of acquiring citizenship:  The Bill says that on acquiring citizenship: (i) such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and (ii) all legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.
  • Exception:  Further, the Bill adds that the provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.  These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.  It will also not apply to the areas under the Inner Line” under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.  The Inner Line Permit regulates visit of Indians to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
  • Citizenship by naturalisation:  The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications. One of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years.
  • The Bill created an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with regard to this qualification. For these groups of persons, the 11 years’ requirement will be reduced to six years.
  • The Bill further reduces the period of naturalisation for such group of persons from six years to five years.
  • Grounds for cancelling OCI registration:  The Act provides that the central government may cancel registration of OCIs on five grounds including registration through fraud, showing disaffection to the Constitution, engaging with the enemy during war, necessity in the interest of sovereignty of India, security of state or public interest, or if within five years of registration the OCI has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more. The Bill added one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law that is in force in the country.
  • When the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, this was amended to limit the disqualification to violations of the Citizenship Act or of any other law so notified by the central government.  Also, the cardholder has to be given an opportunity to be heard.
  • Same as the 2016 Bill passed by Lok Sabha.

Sources: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as passed by Lok Sabha; The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019; PRS.

Issues to consider

Whether differentiating on grounds of religion is a violation of Article 14

The Bill provides that illegal migrants who fulfil four conditions will not be treated as illegal migrants under the Act.  The conditions are: (a) they are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians; (b) they are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan; (c) they entered India on or before December 31, 2014; (d) they are not in  certain tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, or  areas under the “Inner Line” permit, i.e., Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

Article 14 guarantees equality to all persons, including citizens and foreigners.  It only permits laws to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose.[6]  The question is whether this provision violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution as it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of (a) their country of origin, (b) religion, (c) date of entry into India, and (d) place of residence in India.  We examine below whether these differentiating factors could serve a reasonable purpose.

First, the Bill classifies migrants based on their country of origin to include only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons in the Bill (SoR) states that India has had historic migration of people with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and these countries have a state religion, which has resulted in religious persecution of minority groups.  While the SoR reasons that millions of citizens of undivided India were living in Pakistan and Bangladesh, no reason has been provided to explain the inclusion of Afghanistan.

Further, it is not clear why migrants from these countries are differentiated from migrants from other neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka (Buddhist state religion)[7] and Myanmar (primacy to Buddhism)[8].  Sri Lanka has had a history of persecution of a linguistic minority in the country, the Tamil Eelams.[9]  Similarly, India shares a border with Myanmar, which has had a history of persecution of a religious minority, the Rohingya Muslims.[10]  Over the years, there have been reports of both Tamil Eelams and Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution from their respective countries and seeking refuge in India.[11]  Given that the objective of the Bill is to provide citizenship to migrants escaping from religious persecution, it is not clear why illegal migrants belonging to religious minorities from these countries have been excluded from the Bill.

Second, with respect to classification based on religious persecution of certain minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it may be argued that there are other religious minorities in these countries, who face religious persecution and may have illegally migrated to India.  For example, over the years, there have been reports of persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan (who are considered non-Muslims in that country)[12], and the murder of atheists in Bangladesh.[13]  It is unclear why illegal migrants from only six specified religious minorities have been included in the Bill.

Third, it is also unclear why there is a differential treatment of migrants based on their date of entry into India, i.e., whether they entered India before or after December 31, 2014.

Fourth, the Bill also excludes illegal migrants residing in areas covered by the Sixth Schedule, that is, notified tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.  The purpose behind the enactment of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution was to aid in the development of tribal areas through autonomous councils, while protecting the indigenous population in these areas from exploitation and preserving their distinct social customs.[14]  The Bill also excludes the Inner Line Permit areas.  Inner Line regulates the entry of persons, including Indian citizens, into Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.  Once an illegal migrant residing in these areas acquires citizenship, he would be subject to the same restrictions in these areas, as are applicable to other Indian citizens.  Therefore, it is unclear why the Bill excludes illegal migrants residing in these areas.

Wide discretion to government to cancel OCI registration

The 1955 Act provides that the central government may cancel the registration of OCIs on various grounds.  The Bill adds one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law notified by the central government.  It further states that orders for cancellation of OCI should not be passed till the cardholder is given an opportunity to be heard.

It may be argued that giving the central government the power to prescribe the list of laws whose violation result in cancellation of OCI registration, may amount to an excessive delegation of powers by the legislature.  The Supreme Court has held that while delegating powers to an executive authority, the legislature must prescribe a policy, standard, or rule for their guidance, which will set limits on the authority’s powers and not give them arbitrary discretion to decide how to frame the rules.[15]  The Bill does not provide any guidance on the nature of laws which the central government may notify.  Therefore, in the absence of standards, criteria or principles on the types of laws which may be notified by the government, it may be argued that the powers given to the executive may go beyond the permissible limits of valid delegation.


[1].  Section 2(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

[2].  G.S.R. 685 (E) and G.S.R. 686 (E), Gazette of India, September 7, 2015,; G.S.R. 702(E) and G.S.R. 703(E), Gazette of India, July 18, 2016,

[3]. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016,

[4]. Report of the Joint Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Joint Parliamentary Committee, Lok Sabha, January 7, 2019,

[5]. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (As passed by Lok Sabha),

[6].  State of West Bengal vs Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR 1952 SC 75.

[7].  Article 9 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka states: “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).”

[8].  Articles 361 and 362 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar state the following.  “361. The Union recognizes special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union. 362. The Union also recognizes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism as the religions existing in the Union at the day of the coming into operation of this Constitution.”

[9]. It is estimated that there are over a lakh Sri Lankan refugees in India, two-thirds of them in government camps.  See

[10]. “Myanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis”, BBC News, April 24, 2018,

[11]. “Why India is refusing refuge to Rohingyas”, Times of India, September 6, 2017,

[12].  The Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan passed in 1974 effectively declared Ahmaddiyas as non-Muslims.

[13].  For example, see

[14].  Report of the Sub-Committee on North East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas (Chairperson: Gopinath Bardoloi), July 28, 1947; Constituent Assembly of India Debates, Volume IX, 5th, 6th and 7th September, 1949.

[15].  Hamdard Dawakhana and Anr., v. The Union of India (UOI) and Ors., AIR1960SC554; Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies and Ors. vs. The State of Bihar and Ors., 2016(4) PLJR369.


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Human Rights, Politics

Citizenship Amendment Bill

There are many reasons to oppose the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) combined with a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). In its current form, the CAB seems to violate article 14 of the Constitution, which protects all persons, not just citizens, from discrimination. However, even those who support its stated objective should oppose it for one simple reason—its extremely high cost of error, which, given India’s poor state capacity, is inevitable.

The CAB aims to amend India’s Citizenship Act, which lays down the elements of Indian citizenship. The amendment states that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan… shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act”. It protects individuals belonging to some groups from being declared illegal immigrants (and facing detention/deportation), and fast-tracks their citizenship, but categorically excludes Muslim immigrants from getting similar protection, even if they belong to minority and persecuted groups such as Ahmadis or Rohingyas.

The government is also considering a nationwide NRC. Once created, the NRC will list the names of all those included as Indian citizens. Those not on the list will get a chance to prove their status as citizens. If the exercise turns out like the one in Assam, those excluded will have a short period to appeal their exclusion, failing which they would face detention and deportation.

The exercise would be highly prone to error—both Type I and Type II. Type I errors, or false positives, mean mistakenly identifying a person as an immigrant from protected minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and erroneously giving them the benefit of Indian citizenship. Immigrants are usually a net economic benefit; so the costs of Type I errors are related to national security. These costs are not nationwide and typically limited to a handful of border districts in India.

Type II errors, or false negatives, occur when those who qualify as Indian citizens are mistakenly categorized as illegal immigrants. A nationwide NRC, if similar to the one in Assam, would imply that false negatives get sent to detention centres or deported, making Type II errors extremely costly. To minimize false negatives, the bar to qualify as a citizen has to be very simple and easily identifiable. Also, the state capacity to scrutinize the paperwork for the NRC has to be exceptionally high. The Indian state usually fails on both counts. Given the CAB’s current religious exclusionary basis, Muslims are at higher risk of exclusion through false negatives, though all groups, including Hindus, are likely to be affected by errors.

There are three main issues to consider here. The first is the trade-off between Type I and Type II errors. If, to avoid false positives, the government has a high level of scrutiny for NRC inclusion, all individuals will have the burden of meeting this higher bar. In the process, some might be mistakenly excluded. On the other hand, if the bar is set very low to prevent false negatives and erroneous exclusions, then some illegal immigrants may slip through the cracks. The current CAB framework, combined with the NRC, is set up to minimize false positives, which will automatically increase false negatives.

The second issue to consider is whether the costs of both kinds of errors are symmetric. In the case of symmetric costs, the trade-off between the two kinds of errors is of less concern. However, when the costs are asymmetric, the trade-off in the system must be considered. Illegal immigration is a minuscule problem nationwide and the concern of terrorist conduits is an issue in a handful of border districts. However, false negatives—that is, mistakenly excluding an Indian from the NRC—has an extremely high human cost because of the severe penalties. False negatives could tear families apart, and force the poor, who tend to lack documents, to spend their resources on legal appeals against detention, or spend years at detention centres. So, trading Type I errors for Type II errors is a very bad bargain for Indians.

The third issue is of the magnitude of error. If the government executes the task exceptionally well, such as for voter identity, and has a Type II error rate of just 5%, 67.5 million people will face action, equalling the human displacement caused by World War II. Most Indian systems have a far higher error rate. The State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter. In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people. If the Indian state outsources the project’s execution to an organization with capacity equalling Scandinavian government systems, with a very low error rate of 1%, 13.5 million Indians would still be erroneously excluded, equalling the human displacement caused by Partition.

Those who support the idea of the CAB and NRC need to take a hard look at our state capability to execute such a policy across the country. Once the human costs of error are acknowledged, surely even they would find it difficult to support such an error-prone exercise.

*Shruti Rajagopalan is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, US

Human Rights, Politics

A Crackdown on Minorities: Gross HR violation in NE India


Even before the family introduce themselves by name, they produce a thick file with documents that go back 80 years. “Evidence before conversation,” the youngest son says as he arranges chairs outside his village house for the large family and visitors. “We are Indians. We’ll show you proof.”

Shajahan Ali Ahmed, a 29-year-old social worker, part-time journalist and YouTuber, displays the documents out on a plastic table in the middle of his courtyard. Here are the names of the grandfather, father, mother, and brothers on the electoral lists for decades. Here are tattered land deeds from 1934 issued in the sweeping cursive of a British colonial bureaucrat. Here—laminated with pride—is Shajahan’s college certificate. Sisters’ birth certificates. Brothers’ school admission cards. Driving licenses. Paperwork tracing the lifetime of an Indian family.

And yet, nearly every member of Shajahan’s family is on the brink of losing his or her Indian citizenship—along with 4 million other people in the northeastern state of Assam, excluded from a draft list of citizens released by the Indian government on July 30. “I’m not even sure what that would mean,” says Shajahan’s older brother Humayun Islam, a vegetable vendor. “What would it be to not be Indian?”

The diverse state of Assam, one of India’s main tea-growing areas, is the doorway to northeast India. It borders Bangladesh and in this state alone, there is a list called the National Register of Citizens (NRC). First made in 1951, the government began updating it in 2015.

The citizenship drive in Assam is the biggest of its kind in India, and perhaps the world. Nearly 33 million people here have been trying to prove that they, or their ancestors, were in the state before March 24, 1971, one day before the Bangladesh War of Independence began. Conceived of by other parties, but now led by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the update of the citizens list is an attempt to detect undocumented immigrants. Those on the list are deemed genuine Indian citizens, under conditions more stringent than the rest of India.

For three years, millions of people have been submitting dog-eared, yellowing land and identity documents in Assamese, Bengali and English. They logged online to access digitised census back-data that goes back over 60 years. Households have had to trace their ancestors, find paperwork linking them, and submit intricate family trees listing siblings and grandchildren over four generations. NRC officials conducted more than 900,000 hearings with large families to identify, and thus verify, each other as descendants of the same ancestor.

The process was expected to finally settle the issue of migrants from Bangladesh. But in the process, the NRC has brought to the fore some of Assam’s deepest social divides—exacerbated by the religious rhetoric of the current Hindu majoritarian ruling party. The mammoth bureaucratic exercise now risks pushing millions to statelessness.

On July 30, officials released the list of citizens at a press conference and sang the Assamese state anthem along with local journalists, heads held high. Twelve percent of applicants didn’t make the cut. The NRC does not provide a demographic breakdown, but within a week, it was clear that most of those excluded were Bengali-speakers, both Hindus and Muslims. (There are Bengali speaking communities on both sides of the border.) The Indian Minister for Home Affairs said people would be able to appeal their exclusion. No one would be subject to punitive action, detention or deportation, he added — at least not yet.

Other countries’ attempts to redefine what constitutes nationhood have created controversy. When the Dominican Republic in 2013 retroactively stripped 200,000 persons of Haitian descent of their Dominican nationality, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights said it was arbitrary and in violation of international treaties to target persons of a certain descent and make the migratory status of parents a condition for nationality.Meanwhile, the debate around citizenship for DREAMers revolves around how undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children should be treated.

In India, too, this register has polarized debate in Assam state and across the country. But few questions have been asked about the fundamental idea of stripping the nationality of a people half a century after they laid roots in India, and of generations who have spent their entire lives there. Not only does India have no treaty with Bangladesh about returning the millions of “illegals” Assam says it will weed out, but it also has no clear plan to deal with future migration from the porous border, except for strengthening vigilance.

Though monitored by the highest court of India, Assam’s exercise has received criticism. Human rights groups see parallels tonearby Myanmar stripping the Rohingya of nationality, claiming they were migrants from Bangladesh. They fear the NRC sets India on a similar path.“Assam has long sought to preserve its ethnic identity, but rendering millions of people stateless is not the answer,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Officials in Assam vehemently reject such comparisons. But in the state today, the average Assamese will conflate local and immigrant Bengalis, and speak of them“taking over.” They will speak about protecting Assamese identity with an urgency that reveals a history of deep tensions. It’s why Bengali Muslims like Shahjahan grow up with the fear of being seen as a “foreigner”; it’s why his family carefully preserves a shelf-full of paperwork.

Activists of All Assam Students' Union (AASU) take part in a torch light procession in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 proposal to provide citizenship or stay rights to minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India, in Guwahati on May 14, 2018.

Activists of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) take part in a torch light procession in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 proposal to provide citizenship or stay rights to minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India, in Guwahati on May 14, 2018. Biju Boro—AFP/Getty Images

As borders in this region were drawn and redrawn over a century—creating East Bengal, then East Pakistan, and finally Bangladesh—Assamese and Bengali relations gradually soured. The resentment first began when the British colonialists wooed Bengalis through land and jobs to a region with largely Bodo tribes and Assamese-speakers. Different groups clashed over limited resources, and cultural and linguistic primacy.

Eventually, it became a question of who has the right to Assam, and to India. Riots and state-run anti-immigration programs by various parties, including the Indian National Congress, have often targeted Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindus who have lived in the region for generations.Violence reached its peak during a six-year anti-outsider agitation in the ‘80s, known as the Nellie Massacre. Machete-wielding Assamese youth killed 2,191 “suspected immigrants”—all descendants of migrated Bengali Muslims—in one February morning.

More recently, there is palpable alarm about the growing Muslim population—rising from 28 to 34 percent of the state population from 1991 to 2011, according to the last census. (Some experts ascribe this to higher birth rates among illiterate and poor Muslims, rather than to illegal migration from Bangladesh.)

Many Indians have praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party for updating the NRC. The federal and state governments budgeted $175 million for the policy, which was a crucial plank leading to the BJP’s victory for the first time in Assam in 2016. Initially, it was widely believed that those left off the list would be immediately deported; in late July, the federal government even approved funds for a detention camp, saying the six temporary ones are getting overcrowded.

But opposition figures across in India have criticized the NRC for bureaucratic gaffes and possible discrimination against Bengali-speaking locals. Four Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations have expressed serious concerns about potential “wrongful exclusion.”Amnesty International asked that families not be “torn apart,” and the rights of those at risk of becoming stateless not be violated. Now, as some BJP politicians demand prompt expulsion and others assure a fair process, it’s unclear what exactly will happen to those who fail to reclaim their citizenship when the process is finally complete.

They may have to face opaque and corrupt Foreigners Tribunals, run by the state’s Home department, before they are thrown in detention camps. In 2013, Ainul Hoque, 40, was declared Indian by a tribunal but two years later, was questioned over his status again by the police—he faces trial again. As a result, he and his children have been excluded from the NRC. “How many times should I prove I’m Indian?” Hoque asks, slapping his forehead with a stack of documents. A rice farmer in Assam’s river islands, Hoque has a birth certificate showing we was born in India. Floods and erosion have displaced his family eight times. “I accept nature’s fury, and god’s wrath,” he says. “But I don’t know what to do when my own country wants to throw me out.”

Social activists hold posters during a protest following the publication of a draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Kolkata on August 1, 2018.

Social activists hold posters during a protest following the publication of a draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Kolkata on August 1, 2018. Dibyangshu Sarkar—AFP/Getty Images

The registry seeks to be neutral, but it is saddled with Assam’s identity wars. Village-level officials undertaking the NRC have been accused of acting on their own biases. Hasina Ahmed, a 28-year-old woman from Alipur Char village, said an official rejected the village link certificate she submitted as proof of lineage. “He said it looked fake,” she says. Subsequently, a higher official cleared it as authentic. The NRC village offices allowed Assamese women to submit the same document with no verification. “They’re original inhabitants,” an official in Barpeta explains to TIME, citing a category that no longer officially exists.

The state’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government is also trying to infuse the local desire to expel foreigners with its own anti-Muslim agenda. In 2016, it tried to amend laws in parliament to relax citizenship requirements for only non-Muslim migrants from neighboring countries including Bangladesh. Assam erupted in protest against it. “We have no religious bias. We don’t want Bengali Hindu immigrants either,” says former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, leader of the Assamese nationalist Asom Gana Parishad, an ally of the BJP government in Assam.

Assamese society largely supports the NRC, but are sharply divided on whether it is fair. Despite the longstanding tensions, most people here criticize the idea of driving out Muslims. At the same time, they believe the changes migration has wrought in the region must be reversed in some way.

Today, as people excluded get ready to appeal to the NRC, Assamese nationalist groups are beginning a new fight. “We have estimated that there are 5 million illegals,” says Palash Changmai, the general secretary of an influential Assamese students union, mentioning an unsubstantiated number popularly quoted in anti-foreigner rhetoric. “The list has excluded only 4 million. Where are the rest? We know where they are.”

Self-appointed border-guards in neighboring Meghalaya and West Bengal are randomly stopping people at state borders, claiming to prevent an influx of the declared foreigners. Undeterred by the NRC’s flaws, some groups of Indian nationalists are demanding such an exercise for the entire country to root out “infiltrators.” This would put millions in India under risk of losing their nationality, like the Rohingya did in Myanmar, or face perpetual harassment in the name of citizenship.

Even with the NRC list, all sides remain anxious. But the stakes are highest for those finally excluded. They face a bleak limbo in detention camps. It could uproot tens of thousands, and split up families. Anita Barman, a 49-year-old Bengali Hindu teacher who did not make the list, has little hope for the appeals process. “What will they do with us in the end?” she asks in frustration. “Drown us in the sea? Send us to a country I have not even seen in my imagination? Leave us at the border with nothing?”

The Hindu