The Cabinet approval was crucial as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been strongly advocating a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The Opposition has staunchly opposed both the Bill and the country-wide NRC.
On Tuesday, Union home minister Amit Shah had met various stakeholders from the northeastern states to understand their concerns over the proposed law.
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.
During the last winter session, the Lok Sabha had passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. While the Bill awaited passage in the Upper House, it 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.
Opposition parties are once again likely to push for the Bill to be referred to a select committee before it is discussed in the Upper House.
Meanwhile, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh, during the parliamentary party meeting last week, had warned party’s members of Parliament against absenteeism in the House as the party would likely table the Bill next week.
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