Amid protests across the Northeast against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019, the Lok Sabha passed the bill in the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.
According to reports, while 311 Lok Sabha MPs voted in favour of the bill only 80 MPs opposed it.
The bill will now face a crucial test in the Rajya Sabha.
The bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated to India after facing persecution on grounds of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh if they fulfil conditions for grant of citizenship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Delighted that the Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a rich and extensive debate.”
“I thank the various MPs and parties that supported the Bill. This Bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values,” he added.
Introducing the bill, union home minister Amit Shah said this bill nowhere targets India’s minority community, but the illegal immigrants would not be allowed to stay in the country at any cost.
Replying to the debate, Shah said misconceptions are being spread about the bill that it is against any particular community, but this is a humanitarian step to grant citizenship to those who suffered for the last 70 years.
He said the failure of the Nehru-Liaqat pact of 1950 is also one of the reasons for bringing about this bill.
Shah alleged it was the Congress party that accepted the partition of India on religious ground and therefore the need for the bill was necessitated.
The union home minister also asked the members to distinguish between the genuine refugees and the intruders.
Shah said the Narendra Modi government is committed to the security and all equal rights to all and there would be no discrimination based on the religion.
Shah said the provisions of the amendments to the Act would not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inner Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, said a PIB press statement.
The bill also seeks to amend the Third Schedule to the Act to make applicants belonging to the said communities from the aforesaid countries eligible for citizenship by naturalisation if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of the existing eleven years.
Making an important announcement, Shah said Manipur would be brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and with that the problems of all the North Eastern States would be taken care of.
He said, all the apprehensions of the northeastern states and that of Sikkim were addressed in the bill and that is the reason they are supporting this bill.
He also reassured that no provision of Article 371 would be violated by this bill.
The linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of the Northeast would be preserved, Shah assured.
This bill contains the solution to the problems of northeastern states, as the provisions of the amendment have been incorporated after marathon deliberations with various stakeholders from the region for the last one month, he said.
The issue should be seen as a humanitarian one, beyond political ideologies, Shah said.