Govt to table Citizenship Bill in Parliament today

The government on Tuesday will table the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, which a Joint Committee of Parliament described as "appreciable" for giving Indian nationality to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The Union Cabinet cleared the Bill at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the Joint Committee of Parliament that scrutinised the proposed law and rejected the contentions of Opposition parties which wanted to make it religion-neutral.

The new bill seeks to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they do not possess any proper documents.

The government's clearance to the bill had its resonance in Assam where BJP ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) pulled out of the state government.

In its 440-page report, the panel headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal said, "display of such supportive and humanitarian approach on the part of the government towards the minorities who fled the three countries, including Bangladesh, due to religious persecution is quite appreciable."

The report, which was adopted by a majority vote, was dissented by Congress MPs Sushmita Dev, P Bhattacharya and Bhubaneswar Kalita, Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy and Derek O'Brien, BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab, Samajwadi Party's Javed Ali Khan and CPI(M)'s Mohd Salim. Incidentally, portions of Salim's dissent note were expunged citing rules.

In his dissent note, Mahtab said Assam is a "fragile state" and nothing should be done to unsettle the peace, tranquillity and brotherhood" in the state.

In identical notes, O'Brien, Roy and Khan said they felt that no names of genuine Indian citizens should be deleted and described the efforts to pass the bill as a "political effort necessitated by political realities in Assam and West Bengal.

Kalita and Bhattacharya said on certain grounds, the bill may create ethnic divisions in Assam and the Northeast while Salim noted the Indian citizenship flows from the Constitution that grants it as a fundamental right and the right cannot be religion specific or country of origin specific.

The panel by a majority vote had rejected demands for inclusion of Sri Lankans in the Bill. The demands for keeping Bangladesh out of Bill's ambit was also rejected.

“The committee has disagreed with the suggestion received from some quarters that Bangladesh be kept out of the purview of the proposed amendments,” the report said.

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