Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 8
The stage is set for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan facing religious persecution there.
According to the Lok Sabha’s List of Business for Monday, Home Minister Amit Shah will introduce the contentious Bill to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act in the first half of the Monday’s session and move it for discussion and passage on the same day, later.
An election promise of the BJP, including in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the party-led NDA government had introduced the Bill in its previous tenure and got it cleared from the Lok Sabha. However, it did not introduce the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, apparently because of vehement protests in the Northeast.
According to the proposed legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. The Bill also proposes to give immunity to such refugees facing legal cases after being found illegal migrants.
Attempts have also been made to address concerns of the northeastern states, where there have been widespread protests from those who believe 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.
To assuage feelings of tribals of the Northeast, where many also feel that permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region’s demography, the government has made provisions it will not be applicable in the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime areas and tribal regions governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Therefore, it will not cover tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura as well as Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram where ILP regime is applicable.
Demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), the Congress is describing the proposed legislation as a “Ghar Wapsi Bill” aimed at making the Northeast a “dumping ground” for Bangladeshi Hindus. Some opposition parties have also expressed apprehensions over Muslims converting to Hinduism or other religions to gain citizenship of India. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) are among those opposing the bill on the ground that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion. However, according to the BJP and RSS leaders 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.
Its passage in the Lok Sabha is certain, due to the massive majority the BJP and its allies have. The government is also confident of its passage in the Rajya Sabha on the basis of support from “non-aligned” regional parties which have helped the BJP-led NDA clear many legislations the past.
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