NEW DELHI/GUWAHATI: The Centre will attempt to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament by December 10, Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, but huge opposition by political parties, civil society groups and student organisations in the North-east could force the government to incorporate some safeguards for the region.
Government sources said areas protected by the Inner Line Permit and states protected by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution may be exempted from the ambit of the Bill. The ILP is applicable in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh while the Sixth Schedule covers parts of Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram. The rest of the North-east states likely to be given constitutional protection, the sources said.
They added that the new draft of the Bill is different and accommodates all points raised by stakeholders. "The Bill will be tabled in Parliament by December 10. Given the atmosphere that prevails in Parliament, we are hopeful that it will be passed," Sarma said.
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
The legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8 but it was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha reportedly due to protests in the Northeast. According to the earlier Bill, those who came to India on or before December 31, 2014, will benefit from the proposed legislation.
People in the North-east have opposed the Bill, saying it 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.Home Minister Amit Shah has been holding a series of meetings with CMs, political leaders and civil society members since Friday and discussing the issues related to the Bill.
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill move is political, asserts expert
On Friday, Shah held meetings with delegations from Tripura and Mizoram. Saturday’s meeting was attended by CMs of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya Sarbananda Sonowal, Prema Khandu and Conrad Sangma respectively, Union minister Kiren Rijiju, several MPs and members of the civil society.
Author Subir Bhowmik described the development as a “pure political move” and said this could mean that the Citizenship Act in its present form will continue to apply to North Eastern states. “With this, the BJP wants to send a message to Hindus in the North East because people there want all foreigners to be deported and not just Muslims.”
Independent researcher CR Bejoy similarly called the development a political move. “The north-east is a region where communities have enjoyed superior political autonomy. The Centre obviously does not want to do anything that will threaten them or will that they will feel suspicious about. This is a political development."
North-east has opposed the Bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants.