Undeterred by protests sweeping across northeastern states and a vociferous opposition, Union Home Minister Amit Shah will introduce the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on Monday (December 9) afternoon. The Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there.
The Bill to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act will be taken up for discussion and passage, according to the Lok Sabha’s List of Business for Monday.
This comes amid widespread protests in the northeastern region where a section of people are opposing the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants. The influential North East Students Organisation has called an 11-hour bandh on Tuesday in the region.
To assuage feelings of Northeast tribals, where many feel that permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region’s demography, the government has made provisions under which the Bill will not be applicable in the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime areas and those tribal regions that are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The ILP regime is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
Such refugees will be given Indian citizenship after they have resided in India for five years (six years in CAB 2016), instead of 11 years earlier, the Bill said. It also proposes to give immunity to such refugees facing legal cases after being found illegal migrants.
The Bill was an election promise of the BJP in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the Bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s approval. But it did not introduce it in the Rajya Sabha, apparently due to vehement protests in the Northeast. It lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.
BSP to oppose
The opposition parties including Congress are set to oppose the Bill while BJP’s estranged ally Shiv Sena is likely to support the legislation.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati had described the Bill as “unconstitutional and divisive” and the party said on Sunday that there’s a positive discussion among the people regarding the stand taken by the party. Mayawati had demanded that the Bill be sent to a parliamentary committee for review.
“Citizenship in the name of religion and discrimination in the name of religion of the citizens through it is totally against the basic structure of the humanitarian and secular Constitution of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. Instead of forcing this bill, like demonetisation and GST, the central government should review it,” she said.
Tharoor fears Hindutva version of Pakistan
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the passage of the Bill in Parliament will mark the victory of Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s ideology over that of Mahatma Gandhi’s and that the exercise of granting citizenship on the basis of religion will reduce India to a “Hindutva version of Pakistan”.
He alleged the BJP government wants to single out “one community” and refuses to grant its members asylum from oppression on the same conditions as other communities. Further, he said no bench of the Supreme Court will allow such a “blatant violation” of the fundamental tenets of the Constitution to go unchecked even if the Bill is passed by the Parliament.
Ram Madhav defends CAB
In the face of vociferous criticism, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav defended the Bill saying India is duty-bound to give citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries as they are victims of the decision to divide the country on religious lines.
Madhav, who is party’s pointsman for northeastern states, said the government and the home minister has held extensive consultations with various stakeholders from the region to address their apprehensions. He said the government will address all apprehensions of the states about the changes in their demography, language and culture due to this bill.
(With inputs from agencies)