With the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill set to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, the opposition to it seems to be building. The CPM is set to move two amendments seeking removal of names of the religions whose followers will be eligible for Indian citizenship under it, while the Trinamool Congress, sources said, is set to submit a notice opposing the Bill’s introduction, led by veteran parliamentarian Saugata Roy.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, CPI, IUML, DMK and RJD, apart from the CPM and Trinamool, have also put together an eight-point strategy to take on CAB both inside and outside Parliament.
Sources said the CPM amendments would call for replacement of the words “Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan” regarding illegal refugees seeking citizenship, with “from neighbouring countries”. Along with this change in section 2, line 3 of CAB, the CPM will seek a similar replacement in section 6, line 3, to make the Bill “religion neutral” and more “in keeping with Constitutional ethos”.
The Trinamool has issued a whip to all its MPs in both Houses of Parliament to remain present on the next four days in anticipation of the legislation reaching the Upper House too sometime this week — the last of the current session.
“We will oppose the introduction of the Bill in both Houses because it is against Constitutional morality. Trinamool members will get a chance to speak about the Bill before it is introduced,” said a party leader.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, a leftover agenda of the previous NDA government, seeks to ease the Indian citizenship process for those fleeing religious persecution from neighbouring countries, leaving out only Muslims from its ambit. It also provides for relief to non-Muslims left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise by not only making them eligible for citizenship under the more liberal rules but also calling for abatement of the legal proceedings currently on against them.
The Opposition has held that granting citizenship on the basis of religion is contrary to the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution. They have also maintained that the Bill and the NRC cannot be de-hyphenated because new sections have been inserted into the current draft of the legislation to paper over the NRC glitches.
Tabled in Parliament earlier this year, under the first Modi government, the Bill had been sent to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, in which several parties, including the Trinamool, BJD, Congress and CPM, had given dissent notes. It had eventually failed to clear the Rajya Sabha and lapsed with the end of term of the last Parliament.
While the NDA still doesn’t have the brute majority of the Lok Sabha in the Upper House, the Opposition had seemed cautious in its reaction after the government cleared CAB last week for introduction in the House.
In an indication that they may have dropped that reticence, the opposition parties’ agenda will now contend that CAB is essentially an effort by the government to divert attention from the state of the economy, and is against Constitutional morality, provides for different standards for citizenship, is anti-tribal, is unjust to one lakh Gorkhas left out of the NRC in Assam, and is a damage-control exercise post the latter exercise in the Northeastern state.
They will also ask why, even though the government claims religious persecution as the biggest ground for the Bill, CAB’s text itself does not mention this.