Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 — which seeks to accord citizenship to people from six non-Muslim minority communities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who seek to escape “religious persecution” in those countries — amid protests and walkouts by the Congress and other Opposition parties.
Seeking to allay apprehensions from Opposition quarters that the Bill would be detrimental to the indigenous population of Assam, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while piloting the Bill, said the burden of immigrants would be shared by the whole country and not Assam alone.
“It is the Centre’s responsibility to see to it that Assam’s customs, culture and traditions are preserved and for that we will offer all help needed to Assam,” he said. “We will ensure that the rights, interests and privileges of the local tribes in Assam are protected.”
Singh said the Union Cabinet had also approved grant of ST status to six communities of Assam — Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak. “A separate Bill will be brought to grant ST status to Bodo Kacharis in Hill districts of Assam and Karbis in the rest of Assam. Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the Autonomous District Councils,” he said. “Some of these demands have been made since 1980.”
The Bill, which BJP MP from Gauhati Bijoya Chakravarty termed “Assam’s raksha kavach”, brings down the period of Indian residency of such persons seeking citizenship to six years from the present 11 years.
“Where will they go if not India?” Singh said. He quoted from B R Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sucheta Kripalani and even Manmohan Singh to drive home the point that past regimes had also expressed willingness to bring a Bill like this.
As Singh asserted that the NDA government had expedited the NRC process, Assam MP Badruddin Ajmal said, “It is not the government but the Supreme Court which is to be thanked for NRC.”
The Congress walked out of the proceedings without taking part in the discussion, saying the Bill seeks to “divide India on religious lines”. It wanted the Bill to go for another round of deliberation by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.
Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress, which walked out after taking part in the discussion, said the party opposed the Bill “tooth and nail”. “Make this Bill a secular Bill. Say that anybody facing religious persecution in these countries will be given citizenship,” he said.
AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi said, “This Bill is against the democratic principles of the country. We should never emulate the example of Israel. We are not Israel.” He added, “This is akin to dog-whistle politics. Can Rajnath Singh tell me how they expect this Bill to pass the test of ‘reasonable classification’ as per the Constitution?”
Normalcy returns to Lok Sabha on last day
New Delhi: Normalcy returned to the Lok Sabha on the last day of the Winter Session. It was the first time during the current session that no Opposition member came in to the well, nor did any member display a placard or shout slogans.
Members of the Congress, AIADMK and TDP had been protesting on a daily basis. The Congress was raising its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the Rafale deal, the AIADMK was agitating on the Cauvery dam issue and the TDP was seeking special status for Andhra Pradesh. —ENS
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