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CITIZENSHIP LAWS & REFUGEES IN INDIA

Citizenship is the most debated topic of contemporary world. The reason behind this is exodus of people in huge numbers from their native country to other bordering countries in search of a place where they could live peacefully. The reason behind this exodus is not a very hard nut to crack. The reasons are crystal clear. And the reasons are either their native country is going through a civil war or militancy or extreme unrest in their country due to total collapse of system due to which people are not finding avenues to do something in order to support their life like (Venezuela).And when these refugees take shelter in other countries then the receiving countries are not ready to provide them shelter for long period of time. This is because the native countries think it as burden to spend the resources of the country on refugees which was to be spent on the citizens of the country. Citizenship one the basic essentials of state came up with the evolution of concept of state. Citizenship is basically the status of a person recognized under the law of a country to which he or she belongs. In international law it means membership to a sovereign state i.e. a country. Each state is free to determine the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and the conditions under which that status will be withdrawn. Recognition by a state as a citizen generally carries with it recognition of civil, political and social rights which are not afforded to non-citizens. In general, the basic rights normally regarded as arising from citizenship are the right to a passport, the right to leave and return to the countries of citizenship, the right to live in that country and to work there. Some countries permit their citizens to have multiple citizenship while others insist on exclusive allegiance. A person who does not have citizenship of any state is said to be stateless, while one who lives on state borders whose territorial status is uncertain is a border-Lander. There are number of determining factors on the basis of which country grants citizenship to it people. Some of them are :-

  1. Citizenship by birth (jus sanguine):-If one or both of a person's parents are citizens of a given state, then the person may have the right to be a citizen of that state as well. Formerly this might only have applied through the paternal line, but sex equality became common since the late twentieth century. This form of citizenship is common in civil law countries.

  2. Born within a country (jus soli). Some people are automatically citizens of the state in which they are born. This form of citizenship originated in England, where those who were born within the realm were subjects of the monarch (a concept pre-dating citizenship) and is common law countries.

  3. Citizenship by marriage (jus matrimonial):- Many countries fast-track naturalization based on the marriage of a person to a citizen. Countries which are destinations for such immigration often have regulations to try to detect sham marriages, where a citizen marries a non-citizen typically for payment, without them having the intention of living together.

  4. Naturalization:- States normally grant citizenship to people who have entered the country legally and been granted permit to stay, or been granted political asylum, and also lived there for a specified period. In some countries, naturalization is subject to conditions which may include passing a test demonstrating reasonable knowledge of the language.

  5. Citizenship by investment or Economic Citizenship. :-Wealthy people invest money in property or businesses, buy government bonds or simply donate cash directly, in exchange for citizenship and a passport. Whilst legitimate and usually limited in quota, the schemes are controversial.

  6. Excluded categories:-In the past there have been exclusions on entitlement to citizenship on grounds such as skin color, ethnicity, sex, and free status (not being a slave). Most of these exclusions no longer apply in most places. Modern examples include some Arab countries which rarely grant citizenship to non-Muslims, e.g. Qatar is known for granting citizenship to foreign athletes, but they all have to profess the Islamic faith in order to receive citizenship.

When we talk about India it also like any other modern state has two kind of people –citizens and aliens. Citizens are full members of the Indian state .They enjoy all civil and political rights .Aliens on the other hand are the citizens of some other state and hence do not enjoy all the civil and political rights .Provisions related to citizenship are covered in Part 2 of the constitution of India (Article5 to 11).The Indian legislation related which deals with citizenship is the citizenship act,1955.The Citizenship act of 1955 provides for five ways of acquiring citizenship:-

  1. By birth

  2. By descent

  3. By registration

  4. By naturalization

  5. By incorporation of territory

When it comes to dealing with problem of refugees world leaders framed a legislation known as convention related to the status of refugees also known as the 1951 refugee convention which is a united nation multilateral treaty that defines who a refugee is and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. The 1951 convention was a landmark convention as states acknowledged for the first time that the plight of refugees was a matter of concern for entire international community. The convention also clearly states which people do not qualify as refugees such as war criminals. The convention entered into force on 22nd April 1954.It was initially limited to protecting European refugees from before 1st January 1951.The 1967 protocol removed the time limits and applied to refugees without any geographical limitation. Article 33 of the convention is considered as the cornerstone of asylum and international refugee law. Article 33 of the convention encapsulate the principle of non-refoulment.


It does not allow the contracting parties from expelling refugees present in their territory to a territory where their lives may be put in danger. But the hope that the convention gave to the refugees had faded over the time. It is because states rarely live up to their obligations to provide refugees with the prescribed range of entitlements, which include non discrimination, naturalization ,providing identification and travel documents, elementary education, housing, wage-level employment and social security. While it is easy to put blame on the states for their lapses but architectures of 1951 convention are also equally responsible for this as they fail to account for the cost incurred by states.


And when it comes to India’s stand on refugees or the refugee’s convention of 1951 it is crystal clear. India has neither signed 1951 united nation refugees convention not its 1967 protocol which has 140 signatories which is an overwhelming majority of the worlds 190 odd nations. But India always stood up and has been counted when it comes to accepting refugees. As a matter of fact India has one of the biggest refugee populations in South Asia. But India has its own reasons as well for not signing it.


Some of the most well known reasons are:-


(1) Security related

Actually borders in south asia are extremely porous and any conflict can result in a mass movement of people. And this will lead to two consequences:- first, a strain on local infrastructure and resources in countries that are poorly equipped to deal with sudden spike in population.


(2) Related to demography of the area

Huge influx of people can upset the demographic balance which is actually a tinderbox in South Asia.


(3)Another assertion is that India already does its duty, so where the need to sign this piece of paper and India mostly doesn’t take UN money to look after the refugees.


(4) Another well accepted reason that is being offered by some scholars is that India retains a degree of skepticism about the UNHCR. This is something that follows from Bangladesh war of 1971.


(5)Some Commitments that will be difficult to follow for India: - As a matter of fact it will be bound by law not repatriate a single refugee against their will. This principle is known as the non refoulement principle –no forcible repatriation.


So it means India can pick and choose the type of refugees it will accept or reject. And in a way this is suitable for India if you look at India as a country where millions are living under poverty and are unable to fetch their stomachs despite being citizens of India. This fact clearly shows the reality India is not capable enough to full fill all the demands of the united nation commission on refugees. And this is not something that is true for India only but for lot of other developing countries which are unable to fulfill the demands of their citizens only. With this it is clearly evident that convention never took into consideration the economic conditions of the developing countries. But despite of strain of resources India always fulfilled the role of a responsible state and provided shelters to the needy people by going extra millage by either by making special provisions or amending the constitution in order to provide place to live to the needy people.


Let us see how India played its role as a responsible state which fulfilled all the responsibilities which a signatory to the refugee convention would have done and sometimes India has to pay heavy price for it as well:-

  1. Providing asylum to Tibetan refugees:-It is a well known fact that due to fear of Chinese interference in ruling Tibet Dalai Lama in 1959 along with more than 100,000 followers, fled Tibet and came to India seeking political asylum. But granting asylum to Tibetan on humanitarian grounds proved costly for India, earning the ire of the Chinese government which led to 1962 war between China and India. Tibetan government works in exile from India (Dharamshala,Himachal Pradesh)

  2. The Bangladeshi Refugees;-

Next major refugee crisis happened during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.India provided helping hands to the people who left Bangladesh due to conflict between Pakistani army and Bangladeshi forces .India once again has to pay price for the same. Due to sudden spike in population it became difficult for the government to ensure food security. And influx of Bangladeshi led to a permanent problem of illegal Bangladeshi migrants from which India suffers till today in terms of violence between local communities and Bangladeshi refugees. Local communities and tribal groups have alleged that refugees from Bangladesh and the continuous flow of illegal immigrants have led to a change in the social demography of that area, thereby making the locals a minority in their own homeland.


(3)The Srilankan Tamil refugees:-

India gave shelter to sizeable group of refugees in India comprises Sri Lankan Tamils who abandoned the island nation in the wake of active discriminatory policies by successive Sri Lankan government events like the Black July Riots Of 1983 and the bloody Sri Lankan civil war.


(4)The Afghan refugees

India also provided help to afghan people who fled Afghanistan after Soviet invasion in 1979.As a matter of fact according to the website of the UNHCR and World bank suggests that currently India has more than 200,000 Afghan refugees living in its territory.


(5)The citizenship amendment act 2019 passed to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan:-

Parliament passed this law keeping in mind the well proven fact that religious minorities are persecuted in Muslim majority countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. India has to pay a huge price for this as well. Due to some rumors being spread by some section of population people that it will ultimately lead to loss of citizenship of Muslims, came on streets and protested and destroyed public property worth of lakh cores which became a huge burden on government.


From this it can be concluded that India always acted in a way atithi dev bhawh but the whole world curse India for not being signatory to the United nation convention on refugees. But the world never took into consideration the limitations of a developing country like India. The world community should come together and frame a refugee convention that is suitable for other countries as well. And the world community should also come together to find solution to the cause of exodus of people throughout the world.

SOURCES

1.WWW.MINT.COM

2.HINDUSTAN TIMES

3, THE PRINT


-Ujjaleshwar Kumar Kashyap

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