The BJP leadership in West Bengal is raising a pitch to remove the “six years residence” clause from the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) and has urged Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah to look into it.
The CAB seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India, even if they do not possess any documents. The current provision requires 12 years of residence in India.
“Instead of the six years residence clause, there should be a provision to ensure that if someone is coming to the country to save his religion and honour, he or she should just submit an affidavit,” state BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu told PTI. “There can be procedural verification to find out the real reason and then the person can be accorded citizenship.”
The Bengal BJP is seeking to remove the six years residence clause after facing criticism over the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
The final NRC list in Assam, which left out over 19.6 lakh people — of whom around 12 lakh are Hindus and Bengali Hindus — has changed the political narrative in the state to a certain extent, with the TMC appearing to have an advantage over the BJP.
The Bengal BJP had said that if they come to power, it will first implement the CAB to give citizenship to refugees and then bring in the NRC to weed out infiltrators.
BJP’s refugee cell chief Mohit Roy had earlier conceded that the final NRC list in Assam had been a setback for the party. However, he had assuaged the concerns of the people by mentioning that Hindus, who have been left out of the list, will be secured through the implementation of the CAB.
The TMC leadership refused to attach much importance to it and said that both the NRC and CAB are attempts to divide the people across religious lines. “Both the NRC and CAB should be scrapped. Why does a person need to prove his identity after 70 years of Independence?” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.
Opposition Congress and CPI(M) are of the opinion that both the BJP and the TMC are using the matter to serve their own political interests with utter disregard for the suffering of the people.
According to state BJP sources, Shah during his October 1 visit, had asked the Bengal leadership of the party to start making people aware of the CAB to dampen the campaign of the ruling Trinamool Congress that the saffron party’s stand on the NRC is creating panic in the state.
“So whenever we are trying to create awareness on CAB, we are facing this question on the six years residence clause. People are asking us what will happen after six years, will they be sent to detention camps? There is a lot of confusion. This is the feedback from the ground,” another state BJP leader said.
Basu also said that Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah has already been briefed about the views of the state BJP unit regarding this issue.
“He is positive about it. Let us see what happens. Bengal BJP’s viewpoint is that it wants the clause to be removed. It is important at least from the perspective of the state as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has gone all out against the NRC and the CAB,” he said.
“The TMC’s campaign that a person has to wait for six years to get citizenship is not going down well with the people,” another senior state BJP leader said.
According to BJP sources in the state, the CAB may be re-introduced in the winter session of Parliament which will commence on November 8 and carry on till December 13. BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be placed in Parliament “very soon”.
(With inputs from agencies)