New Delhi: Amid raging protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 which grants Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains fleeing neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the Union home ministry said the Act does not affect any Indian Muslim.

“There has been a misinformation campaign. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA does not affect any Indian citizen, including Muslim citizens,” it said in response to a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the controversial legislation that has led to violent protests in some parts of the country, including the national capital. The set of answers to the FAQs was released by the Ministry. Here’s an excerpt:

Does the CAA affect any Indian Citizen?

No, it has absolutely nothing to do with any Indian citizen in any way. The Indian citizens enjoy fundamental rights conferred on them by the constitution of India. No statute, including the CAA, can abridge or take them away. There has been a misinformation campaign. The CAA does not affect any Indian citizen, including Muslim citizens.

Who does the CAA apply to?

It is relevant only for Hidu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian foreigners who have migrate from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan into India upto 31.12.2014, on account of persecution faced by them due to their religion. It does not apply to any other foreigners, including Muslims migrating to India from any country, including these three countries.

How does it benefit Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian foreigners hailing from these three countries?

If their travel documents like passport and visa are not in order or are not available, they can apply for Indian citizenship if they were persecuted back home. The CAA creates this legal right for such migrants. Secondly, they get faster route for Indian Citizenship through the Naturalisation Mode. The minimum residency requirement in India would be only 1+5 years instead of 1+11 years as applicable for all other categories of foreigners.

Will illegal Muslim immigrants from these three countries be deported under the CAA?

No, the CAA has absolutely nothing to do with deportation of any foreigner from India. The deportation process of any foreigner irrespective of his religion or country is implemented as per the mandate of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and/or The Passport Act, 1920. These two laws govern entry, stay, movement within India and exit from India of all foreigners irrespective of their religion or country.

Therefore, the usual deportation process would apply to any illegal foreigner staying in India. It is a well-considered judicial process which is based on a proper enquiry by the local police of administrative authorities to detect an illegal foreigner. It is ensured that such an illegal foreigner has been issued proper travel document by the embassy of his country so that he can duly received by officials of his country when he is deported.

In Assam, the process of deportation happens only after determination of such a person as a “foreigner” under the foreigners Act, 1946. Then he becomes liable for deportation. therefore, there is nothing automatic, mechanical or discriminatory in this exercise. The state government and other district level authorities enjoy the power of Central government under Section 3 of the Foreigners Act and Section 5 of The Passport Act, 1920 to detect, detain and deport any illegal foreigner.

Does this mean that Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can never get Indian Citizenship?

No, the present legal process of acquiring Indian citizenship by any foreigner of any category through Naturalization (Section 6 of the Citizenship Act) or through Registration (Section 5) stays operational. The CAA does not amend or alter it in any manner whatsoever. Hundreds of Muslims migrating from these three countries have been granted Indian Citizenship during the last few years. If found eligible all such future migrants will also get Indian citizenship, irrespective of their numbers or religion. In 2014, after the settlement of Indo-Bangladesh boundary issues, 14,864 Bangladeshi citizens were given the Indian citizenship when their enclaves were incorporated into the territory of India. Thousands of these foreigners were Muslims.

Can Hindus facing persecution on grounds of religion in countries other than these 3 countries apply under the CAA?

No, they will have to apply through the usual process to get Indian Citizenship just like any other foreigner for either registration or naturalization as a citizen of India. They would get no preference under the Citizenship Act 1955 even after the CAA.