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What is Citizenship Amendment Bill? Why is it problematic?

As the Citizenship Amendment Bill secures the approval of both Houses of Parliament, here's a look at what the contentious legislation entails and the reason behind the uproar over it

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | December 11, 2019 | Updated 23:51 IST
What is Citizenship Amendment Bill? Why is it problematic?
Protests against Citizenship have erupted across India (Photo credit: PTI)

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 has been passed by the Rajya Sabha after a six-and-a-half-hour long debate. As the violent protests against the legislation in Assam and other parts of North East marked the day, the Bill is cleared to be tabled before President Ram Nath Kovind for his approval.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Pakistan, Bangaldesh and Afghanistan. It has already been passed by Lok Sabha.

Here's a look at the details of the Citizenship Amendment Bill:

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What is Citizenship Amendment Bill?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant citizenship to members of six religious communities from three Muslim countries to protect them from religious persecution. As per the bill, people belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian faith from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will be granted Indian citizenship if they entered India on or before December 31, 2014, even if they do not possess the required documents. Any person not belonging to these communities or countries will not be covered under the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The bill also 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.

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History of Citizenship Amendment Bill

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was one of the pivotal poll promises of Narendra Modi-led NDA government. The Bill was passed in a different form in January 2019, a few months before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It was then forwarded to a Joint Parliamentary Committee. It later lapsed as it could not be taken up by the Rajya Sabha.

States exempted from Citizenship Amendment Bill

The Citizenship Amendment 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.

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Opposition to Citizenship Amendment Bill

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 not against the 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.

ALSO READ:Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 tabled in Rajya Sabha: Here's all you need to know

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