The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Monday tabled the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha. Home minister Amit Shah said the union government was ready to discuss all aspects of the Bill.
The Bill was tabled amid protests, with Opposition parties led by Congress alleging that the Bill was against the minorities in the country.
“It (Bill) is nothing but a targeted legislation over minority people of our country," said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, senior leader of Congress.
Despite opposition, the Bill is likely to be passed in the Lower House where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enjoys a sweeping majority. “This Bill is not even 0.001% against minorities in the country," said Shah, adding that he would answer all the queries and objections of the Bill at the time of discussion. Shah also asked opposition parties not to boycott the reply of the union government.
In the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA has less numbers, it would require the support of regional and like-minded parties to get the Bill passed.
The Bill aims to provide citizenship to those who had been forced to seek shelter in India because of religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries, primarily Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is a drastic shift from the provisions of the Citizenship Act of 1955 that labels a person an “illegal immigrant" if he or she has entered India without travel documents or has overstayed the date specified in the documents.
The Bill will amend the 1955 Act to grant exemptions to illegal migrants from these communities, who reached India on or before December 2014. According to the proposed draft, the amendment will not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and in the areas covered under The Inner Line, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The Bill also proposes to incorporate a sub-section (d) to Section 7, providing for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.
The Union Cabinet had, last week, given its go-ahead to the Bill, prior to which Shah had met with various stakeholders and groups from the northeast, wherein the concerns pertaining to indigenous northeastern population was raised.
During the last winter session, the Lok Sabha had passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. While awaiting passage in the Upper House, the Bill had lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Opposition had then raised objections against the proposed amendments, which exclude Muslims and minorities from Nepal and Sri Lanka.