The present amendment consolidates a trend that began with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 1985, which amended the provisions pertaining to naturalisation. This gave legal expression to the Assam Accord between the Rajiv Gandhi government and the Assamese students’ organisations that had led the agitation against the enfranchisement of migrants from Bangladesh in Assam. The Accord was entered into in 1985, after the agitation led to the Nellie massacre during the election of 1983.1 The enfranchisement of the migrants was widely attributed to the Congress. The common perception was that all Bangladeshi immigrants were Muslims, and the Congress Party was seen as the prime beneficiary of their votes. The Accord put in place measures for the detection of foreigners and their deletion from the state’s electoral rolls
he 1985 amendment to the Citizenship Act that followed the Accord introduced a new section titled ‘Special Provisions as to Citizenship of Persons Covered by the Assam Accord’. Seeking to allay anxieties about migrants who had come in from Bangladesh after the 1971 Liberation War, this section created categories of eligibility for citizenship based on the year in which a person had migrated to India. All those who came before 1966 were declared citizens; those who came between 1966 and 1971 were struck off the electoral rolls and asked to wait ten years before applying for citizenship; and those who came after 1971 were simply deemed to be illegal immigrants. In 2004, an amendment to the Citizenship Act provided that, even if born on Indian soil, a person who had one parent who was an illegal migrant at the time of their birth would n
ot be eligible for citizenship by birth. Since most of the migrants from Bangladesh were Muslims, this covertly introduced a religion-based exception to the principle of citizenship by birth, undermining the principle of jus soli. These provisions were a response to the political situation in Assam—where anti-migrant sentiment was at a fever pitch—but already contained the seeds of the politicisation and incipient communalisation of the issue of migrants.
Glasp is a social web highlighter that people can highlight and organize quotes and thoughts from the web, and access other like-minded people’s learning.