Sociologists use the term social stratification to describe the system of social
standing. Social stratification refers to a society's categorization of its
people into rankings of socioeconomic tiers based on factors like wealth,
income, race, education, and power. Social stratification is the allocation of
individuals and groups according to various social hierarchies of differing
power, status, or prestige.1
Society's layers are made of people, and society's resources are distributed
unevenly throughout the layers. The people who have more resources represent the
top layer of the social structure of stratification. Other groups of people,
with progressively fewer and fewer resources, represent the lower layers of our
Social stratification is important due to the following reasons:
- To understand Social Inequality
- to understand how 'Social Order' is maintained
Citizenship Amendment Act,2019:
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA Bill) was first introduced in 2016 by the
Lok Sabha by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. This bill was referred to a
Joint Parliamentary Committee, whose report was later submitted on January 7,
2019. The Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed on January 8, 2019, by the Lok
Sabha which lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. This Bill was
introduced again on 9 December 2019 by the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah in
the 17th Lok Sabha and was later passed on 10 December 2019. The Rajya Sabha
also passed the bill on 11th December.
The CAA was passed to provide Indian citizenship to the illegal migrants who
entered India on or before 31st December 2014. The Act was passed for migrants
of six different religions such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and
Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Any individual will be
considered eligible for this act if he/she has resided in India during the last
12 months and for 11 of the previous 14 years. For the specified class of
illegal migrants, the number of years of residency has been relaxed from 11
years to five years.2
In this paper, we will see try to understand the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
through the constitution and social stratification.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 Is Unconstitutional:
The CAA violates the constitutional rights of people and is outside the power of
such legislature as defined in the Constitution. The reason why the
unconstitutionality of the CAA is so egregious and far-reaching is that it
represents a fundamental break from the fundamental principles of the
Constitution, namely citizenship being open to all without discrimination on the
basis of religion, language, race, ethnicity, or gender.
The CAA is not only
unconstitutional for violating the text of the Constitution but also for going
essentially against one of the basic features of the Constitution. As per the
government's own numbers, only about 31,313 people, according to what the
Intelligence Bureau submitted to the Joint Parliamentary Committee – those who
fulfill the above four criteria and have stated, when they first entered India,
that they had come here to escape religious persecution, will benefit from this
legislation. The purpose of the law is to protect members of minority
communities of the three countries mentioned who have suffered religious
At least, that's what the government says it is, but the
law's kindness on this front is miserable. It assumes, using a colonial
framework, that Muslims are one large monolith and that religious persecution
between dominant and less dominant sects of Islam is not worth its
consideration. This is not a theoretical exercise — Ahmadiyyas and Shias are at
the receiving end of majoritarian violence in Pakistan and atheists in
Bangladesh, even though born in Muslim families, are at the receiving end of
extremist violence. If the idea is to protect against religious persecution of
minorities, there's no answer as to why the protective umbrella of the law
leaves them out.
In-State of West Bengal vs Anwar Ali Sarkar
3, Justice S.R. Das states
Article 14 does not insist that every piece of legislation must have universal
application and it does not take away from the State the power to classify
persons for the purposes of the legislation, but the classification must be
rational, and in order to satisfy this test:
- the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which
distinguished those that are grouped together from others, and
- that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to
be achieved by the Act.
The principle is not that any classification will sail — there must be valid
bases for such classification and such differences must meet the tenacities of
the legislation. On both these grounds, the amendment fails — not only does it
select certain illegal migrants on the basis of religion, but it also does so
for reasons that have no basis in the law itself. Either a person is persecuted
on the basis of religion or they are not. Some illegal migrants are not more
equal than others. Sixty-five writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme
Court challenging the legal validity of the CAA. On this front, the CAA clearly
violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
The CAA Leads To An Economic Problem:
Economist Kaushik Basu once remarked:
India is a vibrant, secular democracy that
was growing at a remarkable annual rate of over 8% until a few years ago. Today,
Hindu fundamentalist groups that discriminate against minorities and women, and
that are working to thwart scientific research and higher education, are
threatening its gains."
Not just Basu, others have also found a definitive link between the growth of
religious fundamentalism and economic development.
In July 2018, researchers from the Universities of Bristol (UK) and Tennessee
(US) published a study, 'Religious change preceded economic change in the 20th
century', clearly establishing the causal relationship between secularism and
economic growth. It found that the secularisation graph "leads" the economic
development graph in 109 countries it studied, including the UK, Nigeria, Chile,
There is already an economic problem in the country. If tens of thousands leave
Bangladesh and start staying legally in Assam and North East, the pressure will
first show in the principal economic resource land.
Also, since these will be legitimate citizens, there will also be more people
joining the queue of job hopefuls that can potentially lower opportunities for
the indigenous and the locals.
The Citizenship Amendment Act Paves Way For A Majoritarian State:
Internationally, the majoritarian
nationalism of the nation-state is
widely perceived as bad nationalism for two reasons. First, majoritarian
nationalism asserts the superiority of the majority community and its dominance
over minorities. A state practicing majoritarian nationalism ends up alienating
several sections of the population and fomenting strife because it fails to
uphold individual rights, the legal equality between all citizens, and the
intellectual and political choices that are innate in the democratic civic
The CAA thrives to create a monolithic constitution. Political, intellectual,
and cultural identities are not aligned in any country and the ethnic or
cultural nation is politically divisible. In India, the government professes to
be a Hindutva
nationalist. The government's amended citizenship
legislation and suggestions of a nationwide National Register of Citizens
(NRC)—like the registry published in Assam in October—have created massive
apprehensions over India's future as a secular state.
The CAA-NRC is the government's biggest electoral weapon in states such as Assam
and West Bengal which go to polls in 2021. In both these states, the BJP seeks
to consolidate Hindu voters, especially among Bengali-speaking Hindus concerned
about citizenship status after the Assam NRC, and the project itself as a party
that protects the majority against Muslim outsiders
. With a significant
Muslim population in both states, the BJP's attempt at polarization through the
CAA-NRC may enable further schisms among voters on religious lines thereby
enabling the party to play to its strengths of communal politics.
The CAA Is Anti-Secular In Nature:
We the people of India, having solemnly resolves to constitute India into a
SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its
JUSTICE, social, economic, and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all;
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity
CAA slaughters the preamble in which secularism and equality have been
mentioned. This act divides the nation and the people of the nation on the basis
of religion. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 violates every known principle
of equality and equal treatment and damages and destroys the Constitution's
basic feature of secularism.
The act breaches the founding concepts of the Republic of India. In 1947, this
nation was founded on certain absolute truths. Chief among them was that the
land of India had always been -and would always be - home to all faiths,
welcoming diversity and diversity and excluding none.
India was instituted on the idea of 'civic nationalism' —that allegiance to the
Constitution and its values was what it meant to be 'Indian' — and the rejection
of the 'two-nation theory' that triggered Partition. The act tears these
foundational principles as it places some faiths and religions as implicitly
more worthy of protection than others. Indian secularism does not license
religion and conviction to determine an individual's civil status in the polity
(through citizenship) and it certainly does not permit that to be done in an
unfair and prejudiced manner.
CAA And NRC Combined Threaten The Islamic Community:
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, when viewed in amalgamation with the
government's intention to compile a National Register of Citizens (NRC) for
India, will create a situation where being a Muslim and document-less could
deprive one of the citizenship rights. The CAA welcomes Hindus, Sikhs,
Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, and Jains who arrived in India before 31 December
2014 to escape religious persecution as minorities in neighboring Pakistan,
Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
All three happen to be Islamic states. The CAA,
however, does not include Muslim minorities like the Rohingyas of Myanmar (with
whom we share a border). Let's move to the NRC exercise. It is not yet clear
what sort of documentary proof would be required to prove citizenship because
the exercise would be conducted by state governments, and perhaps each state
government could have its own specifications. Let's assume that one of the
documents is a birth certificate.
UNICEF figures from 2012 account that about 40% of urban births and 65% of rural
births are not registered in India. A similar picture is probably the case for
the older generations. In Assam, reports suggest that large numbers (about 19
lakh people) did not possess the necessary documents in the recently conducted
NRC exercise under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Detention camps have
already been set up in Assam.
We want to root out illegal infiltrators coming
from Bangladesh and other neighbors to other parts of India
, the Union Home
Minister Amit Shah has already said while defending their intention to carry out
the NRC. He has also made public threats that those who cannot produce the
necessary documentation will be herded into detention camps.
When seen in tandem with the NRC exercise, the CAA is not simply an amendment to
provide safe haven to persecuted minorities, none of whom are Muslim. It would
be more precise to say that the CAA is pro-non-Muslim persecuted minorities. The
NRC exercise is being conducted to find illegal migrants from neighboring
countries particularly Pakistan and Bangladesh (which also has the third-largest
Hindu population after India and Nepal). A possible impact of the NRC-CAA
combine would be the following: A document-less Muslim in India who may have
lived here for centuries may be more likely to be branded an illegal migrant,
without recourse to the CAA that a Hindu Bangladeshi migrant would have.
Wouldn't such an awful possibility create fear in the hearts of Indian Muslims?
More crucially, the CAA-NRC combine inflicts a deep wound on the constitution's
fabric. Even if the NRC exercise doesn't happen, the damage would have been done
to several fundamental rights including the right to practice religion.
Through this paper, we have observed how the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is
related to social stratification and is also unconstitutional in nature. Through
various different perspectives, we have observed that CAA also opens up the
possibility of future infringement on rights of citizens belonging to Islam
through the future introduction of NRC as indicated by the present government
through our home minister. In India, the majority community holds most of the
political power and CAA is a potential tool to further their own ideology while
ignoring the problems of the minorities.
The CAA has become a tool for the
development of a majoritarian state ruled by a government that holds a
monolithic ideology. This act is against the fundamental principles of
secularism and equality outlined in the constitution.
Therefore, I strongly oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act,2019 and feel it
poses a threat to the very essence of a secular state.
- Anderson 2011
- The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
- 1952 AIR 75, SCR 284
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