The concept of an Indian citizen, as envisioned under the Indian constitution, has been undergoing a subtle transformation for several decades. This shift has been underway since the 1980s, and its culmination in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will likely result in a substantive transformation.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in parliament in July 2016 and is presently under consideration by a joint parliamentary committee. The 2016 bill is the latest in a series of amendments to the Citizenship Act that seeks to legislate a majoritarian and exclusionary conception of citizenship, replacing the existing—however weakened—pluralist and inclusive conception.
Constitutions do not ordinarily define the source and basis of citizenship. In the aftermath of partition and the gigantic scale of the movement of people across the newly-defined borders of India and Pakistan, the Constituent Assembly defined the term in India in Articles 5–11 of the nation’s Constitution only for the immediate purpose of deciding the citizenship of those moving across these borders. The task of formulating a law of citizenship for ordinary times was left to the Indian parliament, which passed the Citizenship Act in 1955.