Even as bandh against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 stalled life in Northeastern states, the Bill was passed by voice vote in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had moved the Bill in Lok Sabha earlier in the day.
In view of raging protest in Assam, the Home Minister moving the Bill dispelled the misgivings about Citizenship Amendment Act. He clarified that the Act would not be confined only to Assam.
The Act will also provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other States.
The Bill will apply to all States and Union Territories of the Country. The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country.
“The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone should not have to bear the entire burden. Government of India is committed to give all help to the State Government and people of Assam,” Singh said.
The bill proposes to make minority (non-Muslim) immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have entered India before December 31, 2014 eligible for Indian citizenship.
Congress and TMC MPs walked out of the Lok Sabha during the discussion on the bill demanding to make the bill more secular.
Opposing the Bill, CPM MP Mohammed Salim said citizenship can’t be granted on the basis of religion. Salim had also given a dissent note to the JPC report, saying that religion, language etc. cannot be conflated with ideas of the nation. He said it is not a Bill, but a “manifesto”. “With an eye on elections, the country is being divided. Citizenship cannot be granted on basis of religion,” he added.
Opposing the Bill, AIDUF MP Badruddin Ajmal said, “The AIDUF is an Assam-based political party. The bill has evoked strong protests in Assam. The AGP, another Assam party is also opposing the Bill,” Ajmal said. Ajmal said the Bill is unconstitutional since it discriminates on the basis of religion.
To this, BJP MP Bijoya Chakravarti raises concerns over the presence of illegal migrants in Assam, says Hindu population in the state is dwindling.
The Bill seeks to facilitate acquisition of citizenship by six identified minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 31st Dec., 2014.
The Home Minister introducing the Bill highlighted the discrimination and religious persecution faced by these communities in these countries and that they had no place to go to, except India.
Migrants from these communities were earlier given protection against legal action in years 2015 & 2016. Long term visa provision was made for them.
The proposed amendment will make these persecuted migrants eligible to apply for Indian citizenship which will be given to them only after due scrutiny and recommendation of district authorities and the State Government.
The minimum residency period for citizenship to these migrants is being reduced from existing 12 years under the present law to 7 years.