Bill Allowing Indian Citizenship To Non-Muslim Communities From Neighbouring Countries Passed In Lok Sabha

9 Jan 2019 1:16 PM GMT
Bill Allowing Indian Citizenship To Non-Muslim Communities From Neighbouring Countries Passed In Lok Sabha
Image Credits: The Indian Express

On January 8, amidst strong protests by the opposition the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed in the Lok Sabha. The bill that seeks to give Indian citizenship to six non- Muslim communities belonging to the three neighbouring countries- Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan has drawn flak from opposition and BJP ally parties. The parties who oppose the bill, claim that the bill is “against the fundamental aspects of the Indian Constitution”.

‘Six communities face discrimination in the neighbouring countries’

Introduced by Home Minister Rajnath Singh the bill claims that the six communities- Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis can take citizenship in India. While introducing the proposal, the union minister said that these six communities face “discrimination and religious persecution” and they “have no place to go, except India.”

The bill has reduced the mandatory requirement of 12 years stay in the country to seven years to avail the citizenship if they do not possess any document. The bill says that the people who belong to these six communities can seek Indian citizenship if they have come to India before December 31, 2014, reports The Hindu.

Quoted Nehru in the Lok Sabha

Claiming that some previous political leaders have also vouched for the protection of minorities in these countries, Home Minister Rajnath Singh cited former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. He said that even former PM Nehru was in favour of giving shelter to persecuted minorities of the neighbouring countries.

“Although Indian leaders signed pacts with leaders of Pakistan and Bangladesh for protection of minorities, unfortunately, it had not happened,” Mr Singh said.

While talking about another former PM Manmohan Singh, the union minister said that even former PM Singh, while speaking as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had urged the BJP government (in power at that time) to be more liberal while dealing with the sensitive issue of minorities in Bangladesh.

To become the law, the bill will now be tabled in the last session of the current winter session of Rajya Sabha on January 9.

The Bill which was introduced in 2016 was then sent to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for discussion. On January 7, the Committee submitted its report, following which the Bill was redrafted and presented in the Lok Sabha, reports The Hindu.

The protest in Northen states

The bill was passed a day after, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), who is against the bill, withdrew its alliance with the BJP in Assam. One of the BJP spokespeople from the state, Mendhi Alam Bora also resigned the party moments after the bill was passed. On December 8, many protests were staged in northern states to protest against the bill, and six protestors got injured in Agartala firing, reports The Times Of India.

While talking to the Northeast Today, the AGP president and agriculture minister Atul Bora said, “We tried our best to oppose the bill. We had support from Nitish Kumar and Shiv Sena and today when Assam is burning in protest against the bill, BJP has completely ignored the sentiments of the people of Assam. So there is no question of continuing in the alliance with BJP.”

The protesters claim that the citizenship bill would allow the entry of illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who came to the state after March 1971, in violation of the Assam Accord, 1985. The tribals and other ethnic communities in the state have been protesting against the issue of illegal migrants from a long time. Those who oppose the migration claim that the, if the illegal migrants would be allowed in the state, they (migrants) would take away the resources of the natives of the state. They also fear that the illegal migrants will irrevocably dilute the strength of the indigenous Assamese population, reports The Indian Express.

The Home Minister, Rajnath Singh while talking about the same said, “The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone should not have to bear the entire burden,” he added, “The government of India is committed to give all help to the state government and people of Assam.”

Resistance from the Opposition

The Congress has opposed the bill and it has urged that the bill should be sent to a select committee for the discussion. Other opposition parties like Trinamool Congress (TMC), CPI-M and a few northern parties are also opposing the bill.

TMC lawmaker Saugata Roy while opposing the said the Bill said that the bill is “divisive and insidious that goes against the basic tenets of the Constitution”. He added that the bill is the worst form of vote-bank politics.

Opposing the Bill, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM said, “You are giving citizenship on the basis of the religion. You can’t run India like Israel. This government is making a mistake and will have to pay for it.”

The bill was also criticised on the social media.

The Bill that has excluded entry of Muslim minorities from Nepal and Sri Lanka, to which opposition express its criticism.

Also Read: “Served The Country For 35 Years, But Still No Name On NRC,” Says Ex-Army Man

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