CAA Act and Continuing Dispute

On Thursday, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, granted citizenship certificates to 14 individuals in the first batch. In addition to highlighting important CAA aspects, Union Home Secretary Shri Ajay Kumar Bhalla gave the candidates their citizenship certificates in Delhi. Four West Bengali constituencies with a majority Muslim population also held elections this Tuesday. Both the conversation surrounding the Citizenship Amendment Act and the allocation of minority votes between the TMC and the Left-Congress coalition could impact the result.


  • Context of CAA Act: 

A substantial portion of immigrants dwell in the territory of undocumented status, with Bangladesh being the primary origin. The government’s claim in CAA ACT & The Ongoing Dispute2016 that there were approximately up to 20 million Bangladeshis inhabiting India despite legal residency, which makes it probably the largest such population in the world, wasn’t backed by accurate data and is therefore unreliable. In 2019, a record of those living in the northeastern border state of Assam was released as part of an effort to identify undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh. This registry excluded 1.9 million individuals who were unable to sufficiently demonstrate that they had entered the state before Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan in 1971.

India, like other countries with a large number of undocumented residents, has had substantial political discussions in recent years around illegal immigration. Several of these concerns became prominent with the contentious 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which introduces religious affiliation as a factor for citizenship applications and provides expedited processing for non-Muslim candidates from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The ostensible purpose of the CAA was to safeguard minority populations in these nations. However, it was met with a widespread outcry and accusations that it was a deliberate effort by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda for the nation. India lacks a structured refugee system, however it had a population of just over 244,000 refugees and asylum seekers in 2020, primarily originating from Tibet and Sri Lanka. Researchers such as Stephen Croucher have noted the history of Muslim immigration the nation, and how religious Hindus have tended to be scared by and have less contact with Muslims.

The BJP government has consistently espoused radical views against Muslims since its inception. It was a crucial component of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral agenda for the year 2019. This will pave the road for the persecuted to find citizenship in India. The declaration made on Monday was not unexpected for a majority of people, as leaders from the BJP party have been subtly suggesting for several months that the law might be put into effect prior to the elections. After the notification was issued, BJP handled trending hashtags like “Jo Kaha So Kiya” (We did what we mentioned) online.


  • CAA, an unconstitutional act:

 According to the Article 14 of Indian Constitution, the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of law within Indian territory. This CAA legislation is discriminatory and breaches the secular values contained in the constitution, which prohibits discrimination against citizens on religious grounds.

The petition further claims that the implementation of CAA must be delayed till the 250 cases pending in the apex court are not heard and resolved by the court; these petitions dispute the constitutional validity of CAA. The petition underlines that according to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, India is a secular nation and hence, any law which is being passed, must be religion-neutral.

Delhi-based lawyer Gautam Bhatia argued that by splitting accused migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, the bill “explicitly and blatantly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long-standing, secular constitutional ethos” 


  • “Anti Muslim and pro Hindu” biassed

CAA gives a religious test for citizenship which introduces for the first time in independent India’s history. Muslim victims of religious persecution in Pakistan (such as the Ahmadiyya), Afghanistan (the Hazara) or other neighbouring nations (such as the Rohingya in Myanmar), will still need to wait for 11 years before they become eligible for Indian citizenship. And unlike Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians, they need valid papers to explain their existence in India.

In 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) made a statement criticising the bill as discriminatory against Muslims. Moreover, Human rights monitor Amnesty India stated in an X post on Monday that the law goes against the fundamental values of equality and “legitimises discrimination based on religion”.

There is concern that, when used in combination with a projected national registration of people, the CAA could be used as a method to punish the country’s 200 million Muslims. They believe the government might withdraw the citizenship of Muslims lacking documentation in several border states.  

  • The conjugation of CAA

-Internal Chaos

Following months-long protests and the outbreak of sectarian violence in the city, the Indian Parliament enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019, putting portions of New Delhi to a complete stop. In India, the violence claimed the lives of around 100 persons, the most of whom being Muslims. On the other hand, an Act cannot be put into effect until the related Rules are published 51 months later, on March 11, 2024, the Citizenship Amendment Rules 2024 (CAR) were notified by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs.

In addition to playing on internal political intrigues, the CAR may have important regional ramifications. Speaking on the subject recently, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah noted that Christians and Buddhists in nations like Afghanistan originally belonged to regions of Akhand Bharat. As a result, these individuals have a legal claim to asylum in the portion of Bharat that is still there. However, if it is believed that Christians come originally from Akhand, India, then why should certain Muslims be denied the opportunity to have such native ancestry? The CAA may have been implemented to help the ruling party in India deflect criticism from its policies, but its effects on an area where the British used communalism to hone their divide and conquer tactic could have far-reaching consequences. South Asia has historically experienced some of the most horrifying communal tragedies as a result of those antiquated British policies; the effects of these tragedies can still be witnessed throughout the region today. The CAA might just stoke the fire even more. And the potential fallout from it, both inside and outside of India, is still unknown. Given this, it is evident that the act is a step backward for Indian secularism as well as for long-term peace and harmony in the region.

-External Chaos including Bangladesh’s position 

In the sociopolitical and diplomatic arenas of South Asian nations, the Indian government’s implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been a topic of contention. The Act states that before December 31, 2014, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians—specifically, non-Muslims—who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, countries with a majority of Muslims, will be granted Indian citizenship. More than four years have passed since the law was passed, but at the time, widespread demonstrations about its discriminatory nature and potential for diplomatic problems with neighbouring nations caused the implementation to be halted in India. Bangladesh is at the heart of India’s problem with foreign nationals, therefore even though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has repeatedly told Dhaka and other capitals that the CAA is a local matter, Dhaka’s concerns have not been greatly allayed.Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala, claims that the CAA weakens the Constitution, divides people, and stirs up communal tensions.Suspicions have been raised regarding whether the Modi-led government is utilising the CAA as part of its vote-bank political campaign, particularly in the Bengali Hindu electorate in Assam and West Bengal, given that the law was enacted just weeks before the 2024 Indian General Election. For example, Bengali-origin Muslims, who have typically supported the Trinamool Congress, the BJP’s principal rival in these states, will not be able to vote if the CAA is passed.

Furthermore, the bill will prevent several oppressed communities from receiving Indian citizenship, including the Ahmadiyas and Shias of Pakistan, the Hazaras of Afghanistan, the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar, and the Tamil refugees of Sri Lanka. Before general elections, a discriminatory rule like this appears to have been passed with the intention of further dividing India’s communities and strengthening the Hindu vote. The CAA was passed at the same time as the “India Out” anti-India movement, which promotes a boycott of Indian goods on social networking sites in Bangladesh. Over time, anti-Indian sentiments have grown in Bangladesh, mostly as a result of the country’s intense complaints about the hostile policies of the Indian government with regard to border killings, water sharing, transportation infrastructure, and other trade-related matters. Additionally, the Indian ruling class’s constant hateful remarks about Bangladesh have incited animosity among Bangladesh’s common people. For instance, Bangladeshi immigrants have been compared in public by BJP General Secretary and Home Minister Amit Shah to “termites,” “illegal infiltrators,” and a threat to national security. Of course, this hasn’t been well received by Bangladesh’s general populace. 

  • How intensely will Bangladesh be impacted?

Some Bangladeshis hold the unfounded belief that Bangladesh has lost out on the huge (and asymmetrical) benefits of two-way commerce and connectivity with India. Even though Bangladesh and India have had excellent diplomatic, economic, and political ties for more than 15 years, Bangladeshi citizens have long been alarmed by India’s unwillingness to address their concerns about a number of issues, the most obvious of which is the border killings committed by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). Over the past three years, there has been a steady increase in killings along the India-Bangladesh border, despite repeated state-level commitments to decrease such murders to zero. In 2023, thirty residents of Bangladesh lost their lives at the hands of the BSF, compared to twenty-three in 2022. In Bangladesh, this subject has consistently provoked a great deal of ire.

The CAA will also have an impact on domestic politics in Bangladesh, giving anti-Indian factions and militant Islamic groups a chance to band together against the current administration or pressure it to adopt a more authoritarian posture. The subcontinent will see a precedent set by the CAA’s implementation that citizenship can be granted based only on one’s religious identification. A hazardous increase in identity politics along religious lines in the region could result from resentment toward the law. 

It makes sense to draw the conclusion that India’s legal unrest will probably have an impact on its neighbours as well, especially Bangladesh. Greater cooperation between New Delhi and Dhaka is necessary to handle the consequences of New Delhi’s internal policies and shield Dhaka from the effects of the CAA.

The blaze might get more intense owing to the CAA. And it’s yet unclear what repercussions it might have both inside and outside of India. Against that backdrop, is this Act truly moving in the wrong path for Indian secularism, as well as for long-term stability and regional harmony? The remainder of this writeup is given for this discussion!

  • The main disagreement between NPR, CAA, and NRC is their exclusion of the bulk

Not only will the proposed National Population Register (NPR) be the first step toward a national NRC (National Register of Citizens), but the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) might have severe effects on all Indians, not just Muslims. There have been overt political efforts in the last six years to radically undermine and reinterpret this constitutional foundation of Indian citizenship and nationhood. especially in light of the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the incompletely discussed National Register of Citizens (NRC) procedure at the Indian level. People are being urged by CJP to comprehend, unite, and engage in democratic resistance.

In the same breath, we must categorically reject both CAA 2019 and NPR/NRC. We need your help for this. At a very basic level, the process of requesting people to supply paperwork to verify their citizenship is erroneous; the NRC can only detect those who lack the necessary documentation, not illegal immigrants. This is demonstrated by the fact that almost 70% of the 19 lakh persons who are out of the NRC in Assam are women.  It seems implausible that there could be so many more female illegal immigrants than male ones, even in India, where males migrate from rural to urban areas initially on their own before attempting to bring wives and children to the metropolis. The government now intends to impose this terrible NRC on the entirety of India. The Matua community strongly supports the BJP, which helped the saffron party win the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat in 2019. The Matua group supports CAA because it will ensure them the right to citizenship in India. The BJP has put up sitting MP and Union Minister Shantanu Thakur, a member of this caste, once more.

Do we recall Prateek Hajela? In 2013, this IAS officer was assigned to oversee a citizenship exercise in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court in order to resolve the refugee, illegal immigrant, and infiltration issues. According to the Assam Accord, NRC will include anybody who could demonstrate they immigrated to India before March 25, 1971. It involved 52,000 government officials in a massive exercise. As a result, women are the group most at risk (they make up more than two thirds of the Assam NRC population).  Due to the possibility of changing their names after marriage (in certain communities, women even change their first names in addition to their surnames), not being sent to school, not inheriting property, and possibly moving to different towns or villages after marriage, women frequently lack documentation or experience issues with it not matching. The majority of India’s population, including the poor and uneducated, lacks documents, particularly birth certificates. At least 42% (51.5 crore) of the population lacks a birth certificate, including elderly individuals, those born in rural areas, and those whose documents have been lost or misplaced. Many of these individuals face the lethal combination of CAA+NRC, and some government offices’ records have been destroyed or eaten by rats and termites, making it difficult to obtain duplicate copies.

The Citizenship and Assertion of Minorities Act (CAA) is the first instance of religion being used as a criterion for Indian citizenship, violating Constitutional secular principles and Articles 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21. CAA has been notified just ahead of the Lok Sabha 2024 elections, marking a significant shift in the BJP’s 2019 manifesto. The act is seen as a violation of the right to equality, equality before the law, and non-discriminatory treatment by the Indian State.

  • Election relevance with CAA

In order to increase its support in Bengal and Assam, the BJP is prepared to take a chance on a protest outburst and some fallout in the Northeast, from Assam to Meghalaya. In Bengal’s Namasudra (including the Matua group), CAA’s pledge of citizenship bolstered the BJP’s chances in the 2019 LS and 2021 assembly elections. In seats along the IB with Bangladesh, this will benefit the BJP.

The TMC and the Left-Congress alliance, partners in the INDIA bloc at the federal level, engaged in a fierce war for political power in the state’s Maldaha Uttar, Maldaha Dakshin, Jangipur, and Murshidabad during the third round of polling in west Bengal.

Riverbank erosion, unemployment, and migrant laborers are still relevant issues, but the election rhetoric in these regions is dominated by the TMC and Congress’s campaign narratives that characterize CAA as a forerunner to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the execution of CAA rules. On the other hand, considering the considerable number of refugees in the surrounding districts, the BJP is counting on a dispersion of minority votes and the polarisation surrounding the CAA, especially in order to hold onto the Malda Uttar seat.

Additionally, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a constituent of the ruling NDA, declared that it will keep pursuing its legal challenge to the controversial law in the Supreme Court and that it remains opposed to the CAA. In Barpeta, opposition candidates from the CPI (M) and Congress are bringing up the CAA issue, charging the AGP nominee with “betraying” popular feeling.

Candidates seeking re-election to the lower house of Parliament after a five-year break, such as Mohammed Salim, the state secretary of the CPI(M) and member of the BJP, will be determined by the votes cast in these constituencies.

  • Two USA passed bills akin to CAA

It is noteworthy that the USA conveniently overlooked the fact that it too had a comparable law while “closely monitoring” India’s CAA and its execution, which is an internal matter for India. Similar legislation, the Lautenberg Amendment, was passed in the US and gives citizenship to religious minority from the former USSR that were subjected to persecution. Iran was later added by means of the Specter Amendment.A landmark piece of American law, the Lautenberg Amendment was passed in 1990 with the intention of supporting religious minorities who were being persecuted and were fleeing the Soviet Union. It was later expanded to include Iran. The statute, which bears the name of the sponsor, Senator Frank Lautenberg, expedites the application procedure for refugee status and aids in the resettlement of those who are subject to religious persecution in certain areas.

The Lautenberg Amendment and the CAA are equivalent in theory. Both statutes list everyone who is covered by the appropriate regulations in their respective nations. The US law targets religious minorities that face persecution in far-off nations, but the Indian law covers non-Muslim religious minorities in India’s three Islamic neighbours: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. This is one way that these two laws differ from one another.

  • What about the Shia, Rohingya, Ahmadiyya, and other groups?

The main objection to the CAA was that it was unconstitutional and “communal” because it did not apply to the Muslims of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who are Rohingya, Ahmadiyya, and Shias and who are oppressed.

Primarily, the law aims to alleviate the suffering of religious persecution victims who are now residing in India as refugees. All Muslims, Ahmadiyya, Rohingya, and Shia, are followers of the Islamic faith. All they belong to are different Islamic sects. Thus, it follows that the aforementioned Islamic sects cannot be covered by the provisions of a statute intended to protect victims of religious persecution.

Issues pertaining to Ahmadiyas and disputes between Sunnis and Shias are matters of internal law and order in the respective countries. The Rohingya population fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar. Economic migrants from Bangladesh who enter India illegally in pursuit of better opportunities are known as Rohingyas.

In recent years, India has awarded citizenship to hundreds of Muslims who have immigrated from these three neighbouring Islamic countries. Muslims in India have already proclaimed Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims, despite Islamist propagandists supporting them. The Modi administration was the one to step in and criticise the Muslim organisations for their stance.


  • Concluding remark

The purpose of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is to safeguard those who have fled religious persecution in India. It provides a safeguard against proceedings related to illegal migration. Applicants must have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, in order to be eligible for citizenship. Nonetheless, it seems apparent to the average person that CAA discriminates on the basis of religion. Nevertheless, SCI must decide if CAA goes beyond what is allowed by the Constitution. CAA is socially poisonous and polarising in any circumstance, it cannot bring about justice or foster brotherhood among people.


Written by-

Nusanta Samayel Audri (lead) & Moshiullah Ammar (associate)

Foreign Policy




Featured Photo Courtesy: inventiva. co. in

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