NEW DELHI: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, will be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, with major opposition parties likely to vote against the Bill on the ground that it discriminates against people on the basis of religion.
Home Minister Amit Shah will introduce the Bill in the Lower House and it will be taken up for discussion and passage on Monday. Following consultations with chief ministers from Northeastern states and members from the region, the tweaked Bill was approved by the cabinet last week.
While the government has the numbers in both the Houses of Parliament for passing the Bill, major opposition parties have said that they will oppose the Bill. The Congress on Saturday held a meeting on the Bill and decided to oppose it. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has already announced her party’s opposition to the Bill, while Trinamool Congress has said it opposes the Bill, but it has not made its stand clear on voting on it. The CPI (M) on Sunday said that it will move two amendments to the Bill with reference to religion and countries.
“Our two amendments to the RSS/BJP’s divisive Citizens Amendment Bill on neighbouring countries and religions: India is equally, a home for all religions. Why just three neighbouring countries in the bill? People of all religions must get equal treatment,” tweeted CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who arrived from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan by December 31, 2014 after facing religious persecution in their countries will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
There has been massive protests in the Northeastern states against the Bill, with the protesters saying that it would 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 their religion.
To address the concerns of tribals of the North-east who 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 regime areas and those tribal regions that are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
‘India’s duty to give citizenship’
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, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav has said while defending the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Non-Muslim refugees, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution, will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship under the Bill.
Responding to criticism of the Bill from political parties, Madhav said a similar legislation ‘Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam)’ Act was enacted in 1950 by the then Congress government led by Jawaharlal Nehru.
“Let me remind the critics of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Nehru government had passed a similar Bill in 1950 for expulsion of illegal immigrants, mainly from erstwhile Pakistan (Bangladesh), and had categorically said that minorities of East Pakistan wouldn’t be covered under the Bill,” Madhav said.