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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Citizenship Bill: Consensus eludes JPC meeting

The Bill seeks to confer citizenship on people belonging to minority communities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India even if they do not possess any requisite document.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
November 28, 2018 3:49:16 am
Assam NRC: SC extends deadline to December 15, allows 5 additional documents The Bill seeks to confer citizenship on people belonging to minority communities. (AP)

Maintaining that India is a secular country, several members of a parliamentary committee from the Opposition suggested that nationality not be accorded on the basis of religion.

The members expressed their views as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, took up a clause-by-clause consideration of the legislation. The 30-member committee, headed by Rajendra Agrawal of the BJP, includes Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD, Saugata Roy and Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress, Satish Mishra of BSP, Mohammad Salim of the CPI(M) and Sushmita Dev of the Congress.

The Bill seeks to confer citizenship on people belonging to minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India even if they do not possess any requisite document.

The meeting was inconclusive. People belonging to the Trinamool Congress and Left parties claimed that the BJP had been made to hold itself back considering that it had planned to conclude the deliberations on Tuesday. However, the committee will now decide at its next meeting which amendments will be taken up for consideration. The amendments have to be adopted through a consensus or through voting. The BJP and its allies outnumber the opposition members.

Explained: How India identifies citizens

Sources disclosed that an opposition member at the meeting on Tuesday moved an amendment seeking to exclude immigrants from Bangladesh from the purview of the Bill. A member belonging to the NDA wanted Assam to be kept out of the Bill’s purview. A Congress member said if carried through, the Bill would lead to a revocation of the Assam Accord of 1985, under which anyone entering the state illegally after March 1971, had to be declared a foreigner and deported.

The opposition members made the point that citizenship being a constitutional matter could not be based on religion in a secular country like India. The committee is expected to table its report in the Winter Session that is scheduled to begin on December 11.

Meanwhile, some opposition MPs at the meeting also mentioned comments made by Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had recently questioned alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad’s right to oppose the Bill and said that the legislation would be dropped if Paresh Barua, chief of the banned ULFA (I), joins the mainstream.

According to sources, many of the opposition members are now pushing for a breach of privilege notice to Sarma.

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