Citizenship (Amendment) Bill tabled in Lok Sabha for passage

Elias Hubbard
December 9, 2019

The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, is all set to be introduced in Lok Sabha on Monday by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

It is important to note that the Bill was passed by the Lower House of the Parliament earlier this year but lapsed with the term of the previous Lok Sabha in the first term of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in the Centre.

The Lok Sabha Speaker has allowed the members to submit amendments to the Bill till 10 a.m. on December 9.

There were vociferous protests in parliament last week, with the Congress's Shashi Tharoor calling the bill "fundamentally unconstitutional" and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien hitting out at the BJP for "cheap and narrow" political gains.

In Assam, the Bill is facing huge protests with the people saying that the Bill will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

A similar exercise carried out in Assam state called as National Register of Citizens (NRC) excluded almost two million from the citizenship list. More than 19 lakh persons, out of the total 3.29 crore applicants, were excluded from the final NRC.

The Bill says that the amendments if approved will not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

The Bill proposes that all such migrants will be eligible for citizenship if they came to India before December 31, 2014 and all pending legal cases pertaining to citizenship-related matters against them will stand abated.

"The use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed bill would mark a radical break with this history and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the constitution", the statement says, adding, "We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country".

Giving Indian citizenship to "Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution" was part of the manifesto of the BJP ahead of a general election in May 2019 that the nationalist party swept.

The rules to govern the Bill shall be framed later by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Bill provides for Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of the current mandatory stay of 11 years even if they do not possess any document.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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