Govt, Opposition at loggerheads over citizenship bill

Security personnel keep vigil as supporters of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) rally against the Centre’s decision to clear the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati on Tuesday. REUTERS

Opposition members in a Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the government on issues related to the controversial citizenship bill and opposed the alleged bid of "hasty" finalisation of the report.

As a result, representatives of the ministries of Home, External Affairs and Law, who appeared before the joint committee on the bill to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, were told to come out with detailed written responses within a week.

Due to differences in the panel on various provisions related to the bill, the committee has not been able to finalise its report even after having taken six extensions so far. The panel has met a dozen times over the bill since it was set up in August 2016.

Members from the Congress and the Left objected the "hasty" manner in which the report was sought to be finalised, while BJP members batted for its quick finalisation, aruging the bill is pending before the committee for two years.

The panel is examining the contentious bill seeking to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act, a measure which has raised heckles in Assam and other Northeastern states. As many as 46 organisations called a 12-hour bandh in Assam on Tuesday to protest against the Centre's bid to pass the proposed legislation in the forthcoming Session of Parliament.

The issue of citizenship has been central to the BJP's campaign, and within two years of the Modi government coming to power, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Primarily, the amendment bill seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities — 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 don't possess any proper document.

Various organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

The Meghalaya and Mizoram governments have strongly opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill and adopted resolutions against it.

The Parliamentary panel is striving to table its report in the Winter Session of Parliament in December, which is the second last session of this term of the Lok Sabha.

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Govt, Opposition at loggerheads over citizenship bill

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