Indian Constitution not so fragile

by February 25, 2020 0 comments

Proud, natural-born citizens of the country must see through the dubious plans of selective propaganda on CAA and NPR

The agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and related matters, triggered largely by fears that the Union Government will deprive millions of Muslims of their citizenship, is one of the most confusing agitations that this writer has witnessed over the past five decades. The CAA has nothing to do with the Indian citizens. It only seeks to provide citizenship to a limited number of people who have been persecuted in three Islamic Republics neighbouring India. The premise on which the agitation is being carried on is completely baseless and is indicative of the extent of mischief a bunch of malcontents can do when the electorate rejects their agenda.

Organisers of the agitation are calling people to the protest sites by spreading rumours that the CAA will enable the Government to snatch away their citizenship, when the fact is that the law has nothing to do with the people of this country. More importantly, anyone, who reads the Citizenship Act, 1955, (the entire Act and not just the 2019 amendment to it), will realise how water-tight the citizenship of a natural-born citizen (a person born on Indian soil) is under this Act and that in reality, no one has the power to take it away. Section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, describes citizens of India “by birth.” It says:

“Every person born in India (a) on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987; (b) on or after the July 1, 1987, but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth; (c) on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where (i) both his parents are citizens of India; or (ii) one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.”

As can be seen, probably 99 per cent or more of the Indian citizens fall in this category called “citizens by birth” and they belong to all religions — Hindu, Muslim  and Christian among others. Such people are also known as “natural born” citizens. They are distinct from naturalised citizens and indeed constitute the highest class of citizens (for example in the US, only a natural born citizen can be the President). These citizens (this writer included) do not “apply” for citizenship. They become citizens when they first breathe life. They do not make an oath, swearing allegiance to the Constitution of India because their every breath is deemed allegiance. Their loyalty is taken for granted. They can give up their Indian citizenship but no power can deprive them of their citizenship. Among such citizens, those who commit rape and murder, can be hanged for the offence, if the law so provides, but their citizenship cannot be snatched away from them. The Act does not provide for it. They will take their citizenship to the gallows. Such is the quality of this citizenship.

The citizenship Act offers other categories of citizenship like citizenship by registration (Section 5) and naturalisation (Section 6). These are basically for foreigners who wish to settle in India and seek Indian citizenship or people of Indian origin living abroad who want to return to India and live as citizens in this country. There is another category — foreigners, who marry Indian citizens and settle down in the country. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress, is an Italian expatriate who moved to India after her marriage to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1968.

Under Section 5(2), Indian citizenship can be granted to a person coming via the registration route. There is a similar provision under Section 6 (2) for expatriates who apply for Indian citizenship through “naturalisation.” In both cases, citizenship is granted, subject to conditions and restrictions, and only after they make the oath of allegiance.

In the case of Sonia Gandhi, as per the law at that time, she could have applied for Indian citizenship five years after marriage but she did so only after 15 years on April 7, 1983, and was granted citizenship on April 30, 1983. Despite being an Italian citizen in 1980, she illegally entered the electoral rolls that year and following a complaint, her name was deleted from the rolls. However, this is another story for another day. But one may ask, how is all this relevant?

These facts are pertinent because unlike natural-born citizens, Sonia Gandhi’s citizenship is extremely vulnerable. Being a “naturalised” citizen, her citizenship is subject to several conditions and restrictions. Further, if she violates any of those conditions, her citizenship can be cancelled.

Section 10 of the citizenship Act lists out the situations in which a citizen by registration or naturalisation can be deprived of his/her citizenship. It says that if the registration or certificate of naturalisation was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact; or that citizen has shown himself by act or speech to be disloyal or disaffected towards the Constitution of India as by law established; or that citizen has, during any war in which India may be engaged,  unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy; or that citizen has been ordinarily resident out of India for a continuous period of seven years”, his/her citizenship can be cancelled.

Further, unlike citizens by birth, a naturalised citizen has to swear allegiance to the Constitution of India. It cannot be taken for granted. Every Muslim citizen, who is swayed by the anti-CAA argument, must ask himself/herself the following questions in order to know the quality of citizenship he/she enjoys: Did he/she ever “apply” for citizenship like Sonia Gandhi? Was he/she ever asked to swear allegiance to the Constitution of India, like her? So, this is the power and quality of the citizenship of 99 per cent of the citizens under the Citizenship Act, 1955, but the Congress, after its decimation in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, wants the Muslims of India to believe that their citizenship is as fragile as that of its party president.

This is nothing but an attempt to spread falsehood and disaffection. It could even be seen as an attempt to overthrow a duly elected Government through guile and subterfuge. Proud natural-born citizens of India — Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Jews — must disengage themselves from this campaign which is dangerous for our democracy and for our constitutional well-being.

(Writer: A Surya Prakash; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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