The Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 a day after the contentious legislation was approved by the Lok Sabha. 125 members of the Upper House of Parliament voted in favour of the Bill, whereas 105 voted against it.
Besides BJP, its allies such as JD-U and SAD, the legislation was supported by AIADMK, BJD, TDP and YSR-Congress. Shiv Sena, BJP's estranged ally which had supported the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha, decided to abstain from voting on it in Rajya Sabha.
Earlier, the Rajya Sabha rejected motions to send the bill to a select committee of the House with 124 members voting against it as compared to 99 in its favour. The House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members to the bill, most by voice vote. Cleared by both Houses of the Parliament, the Bill will now be sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for his consent.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill aims to give citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Pakistan, Bangaldesh and Afghanistan. The bill also introduced some changes in provisions related to registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.
Replying to a six-and-a-half-hour debate on the bill, Home Minister Amit Shah said the Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities in the three countries and not take away citizenship of anyone. He assured that the bill was against Muslims and said they have nothing to fear.
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 organisations 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 also 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.
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.