The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) seeks to confer nationality on six non-Muslims communities who have faced “persecution” in three neighbouring countries but are not defined as refugees. The term refugee confers an internationally recognised political status. But India is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention that binds governments to protect refugees facing persecution—religious, political, linguistic, ethnic etc. There is no clarity in the CAB on what criteria has been applied or is to be applied on determining the scale of persecution.
In this context, we need to understand why Assam and adjoining states in the Northeast have erupted with such vehemence. Much anger was simmering after the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam turned up an “excluded list” of 1.9 million, which included a majority of Hindus, a smaller number of Muslims, the native tribal communities and other groups, including Gurkhas. The BJP said it does not accept the Assam list and plans a nationwide NRC.