[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has to be viewed in tandem with the upcoming National Register for Indian Citizens (NRIC). The NRIC is targeted towards taking away the citizenship of so-called “infiltrators”. A failure to establish legacy through documents would result in one having one’s citizenship stripped away, as it did in Assam to a disproportionately high number of individuals, many of whom were in fact bonafide citizens. This is where the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) comes in.
The CAA shields all non-Muslims excluded from NRIC. It helps non-Muslims with no documentation. Hence, once these non-Muslim get excluded from the NRIC, they would be entitled to fast-tracked citizenship under the CAA. Muslims similarly excluded would instead face detention pending deportation. It is therefore a filter for Muslims given that only members of one particular community would actually lose citizenship and face indefinite detention pending deportation.
Q. But wait! Don’t the excluded Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Parsis etc. have to prove that they came in from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh to actually get the benefit of the CAA? How do bonafide Indian Hindus get any benefit from the CAA then?
A. Refugees fleeing from their country of origin usually lack the time to prepare for their departure in advance, get passports and visas etc. So, the norm prescribed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is that the standard of proof is to be kept at a very low threshold, lower than the preponderance of probabilities that is followed in civil cases. The burden of proof cannot be too onerous; else how would a refugee “prove” that they are in fact refugees who crossed the border into India? So, while the rules under the CAA are yet to be released, it is likely that no documentation whatsoever would be required to establish that the person came from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.
Hence, even Indian Hindus who get excluded from the NRIC would then advance the claim that they migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan in order to receive citizenship. Bonafide Indian Muslim citizens will not get this same safety net, and given that an estimated 70% of our population does not possess documents, the combined effect of the CAA and NRIC is such that only Muslims would ultimately suffer.