The ruling BJP government has reiterated that the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be implemented before the Lok Sabha elections expected in April-May 2024. This affirmation comes amid continued apprehensions about the Act’s implications.


The CAA was passed by Parliament in December 2019 and aims to provide Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who arrived in India before 2014. However, nationwide protests erupted against the law, with critics calling it discriminatory on religious grounds. The government has defended the Act as a humanitarian gesture towards minorities facing persecution in neighboring countries.

Government Firm on CAA Implementation

Speaking at a business summit on February 11, Home Minister Amit Shah stated the CAA will be notified and implemented before the 2024 polls, accusing the Congress of backtracking on past assurances. The BJP manifesto for 2019 Lok Sabha polls mentioned implementing the CAA. With elections nearing, the government appears intent on fulfilling this promise.

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Opposition Parties Voice Concerns

Opposition parties like the Congress, CPI(M), TMC and AAP have questioned the need for CAA, especially due to the exclusion of Muslims. They have called it an attempt to polarize society on religious lines. Congress, which initially promised citizenship rights to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, is now opposing the Act.

Possibility of Renewed Unrest

Given the scale of protests in 2019, primarily in Assam, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other states, there are apprehensions that CAA implementation may lead to fresh unrest. Protesters are still demanding the repeal of CAA along with the proposed National Register of Citizens. The government has maintained the matter is India’s internal issue.

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CAA Rules Yet to be Framed

The CAA became law in December 2019 but its rules are yet to be framed. The rules will specify cut-off dates and detailing documentation required. Until implemented via rules, the CAA remains non-operational. The Home Ministry has the mandate to frame rules within 6 months of the law’s enactment.

Way Forward

With the government clear on adhering to its CAA stand, it remains to be seen what shape the rules take and how political parties and civil society respond closer to elections. The CAA’s actual on-ground impact will only be discernible post its implementation. But the dividing lines seem to be drawn already on this polarizing issue.

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The CAA has been a point of heated national debate since its passage in 2019. The government passing the legislation and notifying it before elections could vitiate the social environment if protests reignite. However, the ruling dispensation shows no signs of reconsidering the CAA despite the risks of fresh instability and social strife.

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