CAA & NRC: Don’t confuse one for the other

New Delhi, Dec 15  With the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 turning into an Act, there’s a sense of confusion among many that the CAA and NRC will deny citizenship to certain existing Indian citizens or it is against Indian Muslims. On the contrary, the two – one now an Act, and the other a proposal, are as different as chalk and cheese.

CAA driven by religion, NRC not:

The Citizenship Amendment Act is based on religion, with a thrust on exclusion of Muslims from those immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — seeking India’s citizenship. But National Register of Citizens is not based on religion. It seeks to detect any illegal immigrant, regardless of their caste, creed or religion and detain and eventually deport them.

NRC limited to Assam, CAA nationwide:

Inspite of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s repeated claims, the fact remains that the NRC exercise, as of today, remains a state-specific exercise. The NRC, identified and detained illegal immigrants from Assam, on Supreme Court’s order, to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered. It does not apply anywhere apart from the state.

While the Citizenship Amendment Act is a nationwide Act and will be implemented across India. Though many chief ministers have voiced their opinion to block the law in their states, constitutional experts believe the Centre is likely to have the last word on its implementation.

Not against Indian Muslims:

There is a perception that has gathered steam that the CAA will deny rights to Indian Muslims. The truth is, the Act can’t do it even if anyone tries to. This perception is due to a connection made between CAA and proposed nationwide NRC.

While the CAA makes it easier for the non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — to become citizens of India, it cannot take away the citizenship of Indian Muslims. Even a proposed pan-India NRC can only detect illegal immigrants and detain them, who can be from any faith. Moreover the nationwide NRC is still at a proposal stage.

United in protest, not in purpose:

There are two kinds of protests that are taking place across India right now against the Citizenship Amendment Act. In the northeast, the protest is against the Act’s implementation in their area. Most of them fear, if implemented, a rush of immigrants may alter their demographic and linguistic uniqueness.

In the rest of India, like in Kerala, West Bengal and in Delhi, people are protesting against the exclusion of Muslims, alleging it to be against the ethos of the Constitution. But this protest, unlike in the northeast, is primarily driven by the fear that the CAA will work against Indian Muslims, which in turn stems from the flawed linking of the Act with NRC.

Violent protest has broken out in different parts of India. Casualties reported from Assam to railway stations set on fire in West Bengal – India has seen it all in the last few days. But much of it is believed to have happened due to mistaking one for the other.