The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 9. After a smooth passage in lower house, the bill, that has triggered a major controversy, has been tabled in Rajya Sabha today.
Introducing the bill in the Parliament, Union Minister for Home Affairs, Amit Shah said that nowhere does this bill target India's minority community and that illegal immigrants would not be allowed to stay in the country at any cost.
What is Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019?
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 aims to protect non-Muslim refugees facing religious persecution in Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As per the bill, any person belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian faith from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will not be considered an illegal immigrant if the person entered into India on or before December 31, 2014. The bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to such persons, provided they fulfil conditions for grant of citizenship.
Why CAB has created a row?
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has created a political storm, with protests in Assam and the rest of the North-east, which fears that thousands of Hindus from neighbouring Bangladesh would gain citizenship. Assamese organizations allege that the bill will pass the burden of illegal migrants to the state alone. Meanwhile, the government has maintained that the bill is not Assam-centric, but applicable to the whole country. It is definitely not against National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated to protect indigenous communities from illegal immigrants. The government has also clarified that the bill does not dilute the sanctity of the Assam Accord as far as the cut-off date of March 24, 1971, stipulated for detection/deportation of illegal immigrants is concerned.
The bill drew flak from opposition parties for excluding Muslims from the religious communities that it seeks to grant Indian citizenship to on grounds of religious persecution. The opposition has also been criticising the government for excluding Muslims from countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Here's all you need to know about the bill:
- The Union Cabinet approved the draft law on 4 December 2019, while it was passed by the Lok Sabha on 10 December at 12:11 a.m. with 311 MPs voting in favour and 80 against the bill. It is likely to be passed by the Rajya Sabha on 11 December.
- The bill was first introduced in 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government, but was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
- The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis facing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan - but excludes Muslims.
- The bill aims to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014, eligible for Indian citizenship.
- It also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for these migrants.
- The bill exempts the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution from its applicability. These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong in Assam, Garo Hills in Meghalaya, Chakma district in Mizoram, and Tribal Areas district in Tripura.
- It also excludes the areas regulated through the Inner Line Permit which includes Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
- The bill includes new provisions for cancellation of the registration of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI). The criteria include OCI registration through fraud, imprisonment for two or more years within five years of OCI registration and when it's a matter of India's sovereignty and security.
Edited by Chitranjan Kumar