The Centre said the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act will come into force on January 10, 2020, that is, on Friday itself, in an official notification.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.
At least 26 people died in last month’s protests against the citizenship law. Of these, 19 died in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka. The protests, which began at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, first spread to other prominent colleges, and then on to the streets. In Uttar Pradesh, the police were accused of using excessive force against the demonstrators, and even detaining and torturing minors.
In Northeastern states, demonstrators feel the Act will erode their ethnic identities by granting citizenship to foreigners on religious grounds.
Opposition parties as well as former civil servants and members of civil society have called on the Narendra Modi-led government to withdraw the legislation. However, the government has remained firm, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah saying that the Act will not be withdrawn under any circumstances. The government has used the defence that the Act does not take away the citizenship of any Indian.
However, petitions against the Citizenship Amendment Act have been filed in the Supreme Court. On Thursday, the court said it will hear pleas against the law when violent protests stop.