Signalling its intent on the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the BJP Tuesday asked its MPs to be present in the House in large numbers in the coming days, and said the Bill is as important as the legislation that did away with Article 370.
Sources said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while addressing the weekly meeting of BJP MPs, indicated that the Bill could come up in Parliament next week and the government expects it to be passed before December 10. “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is coming soon. It is very important to get it passed,” sources quoted Singh telling the MPs.
Sources said the Bill, which is to be re-drafted as the government has decided to incorporate changes in order to address concerns expressed by states in the North-East, is expected to be cleared by the Union Cabinet Wednesday.
Addressing the MPs three days after Pragya Singh Thakur, BJP Lok Sabha member from Bhopal, was made to apologise for her remarks praising Mahatma Gandhi assassin Nathuram Godse on the floor of the House, Singh also told members to be careful with the language they use inside and outside Parliament.
“He said we should be aggressive and should take on the Opposition, but we should avoid using language that some Congress leaders do. He said we can be aggressive while maintaining restraint. He said we should keep the dignity of the party and Parliament,” a BJP MP said.
Singh was said to have told them that “unhealthy comments should not be responded in an unhealthy way”.
Underlining the significance of the Bill, Singh asked MPs to ensure they are present in the House when the Home Minister takes it up in Parliament. With the party leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi — he was not present at the meeting — expressing unhappiness over lack of adequate presence in the House, Singh said party MPs should not make any excuse for not being present.
Singh tried to reject criticism of the Bill, telling the MPs that the BJP always works to unite the nation. Rejecting the criticism that the Bill goes against the principles of secularism, Singh said the countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — are predominantly Islamic nations and India wants to offer citizenship to those who face religious persecution there.
With the Bill facing opposition in the North-East, BJP chief and Home Minister Amit Shah met a delegation from the region last Saturday. At the meeting, he agreed to make changes to the Bill in its current form. He assured civil society groups and political representatives that ethno-cultural concerns of all stakeholders in the North-East would be addressed, and that the Bill would provide protection to such regions and states where the Inner Line Permit (ILP) is applicable, and autonomous administration has been granted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.