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Mamata Banerjee lies about CAA, says it will grant refugee status to citizens, strip them of their voting rights, and govt scheme benefits: Here’s the truth

Contrary to what Mamata Banerjee would have us believe, the Citizenship Amendment Act cannot take away citizenship of any Indian citizen irrespective of religion. It's not against any single religion or community. It's an enabling law that facilitates granting of citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan & Bangladesh

Ever since the Modi government notified the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on 11th March, the opposition parties, Islamists and liberals have resorted to fear-mongering, misleading and peddling fake news about the Act. In this line, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came up with an unfounded claim that those applying for Indian citizenship under CAA would be instantly marked refugee infiltrators and sent to detention camps. She also cast aspersions on the legality of the Act.

Speaking at a meeting in West Bengal’s Habra, CM Mamata Banerjee said, “Central Government implemented CAA yesterday, I am doubtful of its legality. There is no clarity from the Government over this. In 2019, names of 13 Lakh Hindu Bengalis, out of the total 19 Lakh, were removed from the list in Assam in the name of NRC. Several people died by suicide, Will they (whose names were removed) be granted citizenship if they seek it?… What would be the future of their children? What about their property?… All your rights would be snatched, you would be branded ‘illegal’. This is a game (Khela) to strip you of your rights…You will be taken to detention camp…You (Centre) hear me, I will not let anyone snatch away the rights of people in Bengal. For that if I am required to sacrifice my life, I will do that,” the Trinamool Congress supremo said forgetting that the power to give citizenship is with the Central government, not the State.

It must be noted that the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with the separation of powers between the Union and State governments. It states that Citizenship, Naturalisation, and Aliens fall within the Union List. This means that only the Central Government has the authority to grant citizenship to anyone seeking asylum in the country.

Source: Government of India

“People will lose government scheme benefits, civil liberties, voting rights,” Mamata Banerjee passes off her imagination as a ‘warning’

While Mamata Banerjee claims that “people” will be marked as ‘refugees’, under the CAA “people” belonging to persecuted minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan—including Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs—who came to India on or before December 31, 2014, will be granted Indian citizenship. This means that not random “people” will be marked refugees rather those refugees fulfilling the CAA-mandated criteria will be granted Indian citizenship.

She further claimed that the citizenship applicants will be deprived of government scheme benefits. The West Bengal CM added that all the civil liberties of those applying for Indian citizenship via CAA will be taken away, thus warning them to think a thousand times before applying. CM Mamata Banerjee also asserted that CAA is linked with the NRC National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Contrary to Banerjee’s assertion, the Central government has stated that CAA has no link with the NRC. Established in 1951, NRC is a comprehensive database of Indian citizens. It is kept under the administrative control of deputy commissioners and sub-divisional authorities. It has only recently been adopted in Assam, a state facing issues due to illegal immigration. The goal is twofold: to remove unauthorised entries and to dissuade future migrations.

The blatant fear-mongering does not end here. Mamata Banerjee claimed that those applying for citizenship under CAA will lose their voting rights. “Will you put your fate in the hands of the BJP which has done this just to win two or three seats? If you apply for citizenship, you may not be able to vote in the coming election,” Mamata Banerjee said. It raises the question of whether the Trinamool Congress supremo is not aware that only Indian citizens are eligible to vote and not any refugees or she is deliberately misleading people.

CM Mamata Banerjee also emphasised that the United Nations “has categorically stated that refugees should not be displaced and thrown out of a country.” However, the CAA is for refugees already living in India, not for any current or future groups who may face persecution due to political and ethnic reasons in neighbouring countries. This obviously means that there is no question of displacement of anyone.

Notably, those opposed to CAA often bring up Article 14 in their argument against the citizenship act to deem it ‘discriminatory’, ‘exclusionary’, ‘unconstitutional’ and whatnot. Today, CM Mamata Banerjee also mentioned Article 14 which guarantees the right to equality as she said, “The CAA and the rules framed are unconstitutional, and discriminatory under Article 14 of Constitution, which is the fundamental right to equality.”

Notably, Article 14 assures all persons the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws on Indian territory. This assurance does not imply or intend absolute mathematical equality and enables the Centre to make appropriate classifications. The state can enact special laws for specific groups. The only criterion is that this categorization and the object it represents have a reasonable connection. The CAA aims to safeguard those persecuted on religious grounds in our three neighbouring nations—Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Furthermore, the Indian constitution specifies the rights of Indian citizens, not refugees from other countries. The decision to grant refugees citizenship is solely up to the government.

Notably, CM Mamata Banerjee also claimed that the implementation of CAA is meant to serve BJP’s ‘political interest’ to woo several communities like the Matuas in south Bengal and Rajbanshis, as well as Namasudras in north Bengal. However, it has been a long-pending demand of these groups. As soon as the announcement of CAA implementation was made these SC/ST Hindu refugee communities burst into celebration and called it their “second Independence Day”. Notably, these refugees had migrated to India during the Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan). 

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