NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government on Monday paved the way for providing Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan with the Union cabinet approving the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill despite facing criticism from Opposition parties and protests from Assam and other Northeastern states. The bill is likely to be tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the last day of the Parliament’s Winter Session.
The move came within hours of the presentation in the Lok Sabha of a report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) examining the bill and giving it a go-ahead. The report was prepared with a majority vote even as Opposition members have opposed the move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion. Approving the Bill, the Committee said its purpose is to “enable acquisition of Indian citizenship by members of minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution in their countries.”
While endorsing the move of the government, the Committee was, however, of the view that since the matter was still sub judice, the government had to tread with caution and take recourse to all legal precautions lest it causes embarrassment at a later date. The joint panel, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, exhorted the government to make verification process robust and transparent at all stages and also asked the government to ensure all eligible persons are included in the final NRC list.
It raised concerns saying “inadequate deportation of illegal migrants” has caused a burden on genuine citizens of the country so the government should ensure there is no ambiguity in the Bill in context of the Assam Accord which seeks to safeguard the interests of Assamese people.
Citing India’s poor deportation statistics, the JPC said that the Foreigners Tribunals have identified over 90,000 illegal migrants since 1986 out of which only 2,400 could be deported. “The committee is not satisfied with the overall scenario of deportation of illegal foreign nationals... It is indisputable that deportation of illegal migrants has remained a perennial problem with the Centre.”
The committee also referred to the ongoing agitation in Assam in protest of the bill saying it was “not convinced” with the MHA claim that there is no specific report on unexpected demographic changes of certain Northeastern states, particularly Assam, due to the influx of migrants from Bangladesh.It also said resettlement packages provided to the state government for accommodating migrants “should motivate” state governments to help settle such migrants.