Citizenship Amendment Act FAQs - IAMC

What is India’s discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

The Citizenship Act, 2019 (CAA), is a law that has made changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955. After the CAA, for people belonging to the 6 religions mentioned there, it has become simpler to acquire, and therefore prove citizenship under this new provision if no other parameters of proving citizenship fit. One of the most significant changes is that in the definition of “Illegal Migrants”. The Citizenship Act, 1955, prescribes 5 ways of acquiring citizenship of India. By Birth (s.3), Descent (s.4), Registration (s.5), Naturalization (s.6, read with Schedule 3), & Incorporation of Territory (s.7). CAA eases the process of acquisition of Citizenship for people who belong to six religions: Hindu, Sikh, Parsee, Christian, Buddhists, and Jains, specifically coming “from” Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, the wording of the legislation makes the standards to prove that one is from one of these countries very vague. Therefore, for people belonging to these religions, it becomes simpler to acquire, and therefore prove citizenship. However, the simpler mode of acquiring citizenship does not apply to people belonging to any other religion, like Muslims. Therefore, where documentation will be the basis of proving citizenship, which is problematic for many marginalized communities, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsees, Buddhists, and Christians, will have simpler manner with lesser documents required to prove citizenship (which Muslims and other minority religions will not have) – wrongfully making religion one of the ways to acquire citizenship in a secular country. CAA will work both independently and in conjunction with the NRC. 

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

The National Population Register is being prepared under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 (2003 Rules) of the Citizenship Act, 1955. It is the register of the “Usual Residents” of the country and is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-town), sub-district, District, State and National levels. While preparing the NPR, door-to-door surveys will be conducted and people’s individual information, including phone numbers etc., will be collected for preparing this register. The NPR is the base document for the National Register of Indian Citizens or NRC, as per Rules 3(5) and 4(3) of the 2003 Rules. 

What is the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

NRC is a register containing names of “Citizens of India”, provided under the 1955 Citizenship Act, and 2003 Rules. The NRC is also prepared under the same Rules as the NPR. The first step to preparing the NRC is that the Local Registrar of Citizenship Registration (LRCR) will look at the NPR, and from the NPR see who are the people who “qualify” in their subjective, and oftentimes arbitrary opinion, to be Citizens of India, and on this desk verification, if the LRCR is of the opinion that someone is not a citizen, the LRCR will mark that their citizenship is “Doubtful” after which they will have to undergo a long-drawn process to prove their citizenship. This process of being marked “Doubtful” does not give the said person any opportunity to represent their case, or prove why they should not be marked doubtful, and without giving this opportunity of being heard, directly questions their citizenship status as Indian citizens. 

What is the link between CAA, NPR, & NRC?

The CAA, NPR, and NRC are different parts of India’s Citizenship regime and therefore have a common link, the Citizenship Act, 1955. While the CAA gives 6 religions, visibly excluding Muslims and other minority religions, an added method of acquiring citizenship, under a NRC, people will be called upon to prove this citizenship; the NPR is the base document for a NRC.

While proving citizenship under the NRC, the CAA provides an alternate route of citizenship, with a plausibly much lower burden of proof based on religion, to people of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Parsi religions “from” Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan – clearly excluding Muslims, and other minority religions, and creating a citizenship regime based on religion. Also thereby creating a system where proof of citizenship is harder for people belonging to minority religions not mentioned there, including Muslims. Therefore, if people who belong to the 6 religions mentioned are of the opinion that they cannot prove citizenship, they have a less documentation heavy proof under the CAA to prove their citizenship in a NRC, however, Muslims and people from other minority religions will be unable to furnish any such proof, and therefore potentially be declared non-citizens and consequently, Stateless. 

How can I prove my citizenship?

There exists no conclusive proof of citizenship in India. Several documents together are required to prove citizenship conclusively, most times, coupled with documentation of parents/grandparents. For example, one may have a voter Id card, and still be unable to prove citizenship. This proof may require furnishing documentation and link to one’s grandparents. However, a lot is left at the discretion of the officer adjudicating on the question of an individual’s citizenship status. Under CAA when people from the 6 religions, excluding Muslims and other minority religions, will be able to prove citizenship with lesser documents, Muslims and the other minority religions will not be able to avail benefit of this, therefore creating a clear distinction and discrimination based on religion. 

What happens if I am unable to prove my citizenship?

There is no clarity in law about what may happen. However, one of two things is a real possibility: (a) Either a concept of “Limited Citizenship” may be applied, which is where people unable to prove citizenship will be given limited rights; or (b) People may be sent into Detention. Because unless there is a parallel country with which India has an agreement and where they can go to, people excluded from the NRC, will effectively be Stateless and not possess Citizenship rights of any land or country. This would exclude them from accessing basic human rights, and dignity, which the Constitution of India guarantees to every person within the country. Therefore, people who are born in India, and India is the only country where they have lived, they face a real threat of being declared Stateless, and treated as non-citizens, based solely on religion.

What does the International Community think about CAA?

“Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law. These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.” ~  US President Joe Biden in a statement during his Presidential election campaign in 2023.

“USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims.” ~ U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom


“We are concerned about the notification of the Citizenship Amendment Act on March 11. We are closely monitoring how this act will be implemented.” ~ U.S. Department of State 


“The present UN high commissioner has been quite active in relation to this [India] situation like many others because there is a risk of statelessness created by those nationality laws. It is absolutely essential that when nationality law is changed, statelessness is prevented.” ~ United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres


“The Citizenship Amendment Act is a bigoted law that legitimizes discrimination on the basis of religion and should never have been enacted in the first place. Its operationalization is a poor reflection on the Indian authorities as they fail to listen to a multitude of voices critical of the CAA – from people across the country, civil society, international human rights organizations and the United Nations.” ~ Aakar Patel, Chair, Amnesty International India


“The bill uses the language of refuge and sanctuary, but discriminates on religious grounds in violation of international law… The Indian government is creating legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of the fundamental right of equal access to citizenship” ~ Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, Human Rights Watch 


“The amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution and India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. These amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality.” ~  UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)


“The National Registry is absurd. No country should have a national registry where they’re asking for people to give documentation and prove that they’re part of the country. I fear any kind of national registry could lead to extraordinary discrimination against Muslims in India.” ~ U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna


This is a clear anti-Muslim program. The Indian government has started to build camps in Assam, presumably to hold those who are unable to prove their citizenship. This is how the Rohingya genocide started.” ~ US Congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar


“Democracies should not tolerate division and discrimination, or promote laws that undermine religious freedom. The world is watching.” ~ US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal 


“The Indian government’s new Citizenship Amendment Law purposely discriminates Muslims & other minority communities. It is wrong and  should be denounced.” ~  Jagmeet Singh, Canada’s New Democratic Party leader


(This resource was prepared by lawyers in India. If you have any questions, reach out to @trippoddar on X.)


19.12.27_v2_NRC and CAA Explainer (1)

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