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Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Amendment bill

The Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.

Jan 9, 2019 15:14 IST
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The Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019 passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. The bill has now been tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

During the discussion on the Bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh clarified that the bill is not just for Assam but for other states too. He said it is also for migrants who have come from the Western borders and have settled down in Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi.

The Minister added that Assam is dealing with illegal migration for a long time now and the state's burden is India's burden. He said that it is the central government's responsibility to protect the identity, culture of the people of Assam.

Key Highlights

Under the 1955 Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months and for 11 of the previous 14 years.

The bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the all the six religions from the three countries.

While moving the bill, Singh said that the government is committed for National Register of Citizens (NRC).

He asserted that there will be no discrimination in NRC. He also said that the Centre has taken several measures to implement the Assam Accord.

The Leader of the Opposition in the house, Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that the bill should be sent to the Select Committee of the House.

The bill was passed in the lower house of the parliament amidst a walkout by some of the opposition members including those of Congress and TMC.

Citizenship Amendment Bill

What is the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016 to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. It seeks to make illegal migrants belonging to the same six religions and three countries eligible for citizenship.

Following are three main provisions of the bill:

• The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants from communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India before December 31, eligible for Indian citizenship.

• Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.  The Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

• The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.

Why is the bill being opposed?

The opposition has been opposing the bill’s passing, as it would grant citizenship to the illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who came to Assam after March 1971, violating the Assam Accord, 1985.

Further, the Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion.  It provides citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

However, it excludes Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas, who face persecution in Pakistan. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.

It also allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law.  This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences such as parking in a no parking zone.

Why Assam opposes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?

The bill is being opposed by majority groups in Assam, as they all believe that if the Bill becomes an Act, it will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC) of Assam.

The process of updating the NRC is currently underway in Assam.

Assam NRC

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list that contains names of Indian citizens of Assam. It was last prepared after Census in 1951.Assam, which had faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC.

The Assam government on July 30, 2018 released the second and final draft of the state’s National Register of Citizens (NRC). The draft includes the names of Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971.

As per the Draft, the total number of persons included in the list is 2,89,83,677 leaving a total of 40,70,707 as ineligible for inclusion. Out of 40,70,707 names, 37,59,630  names have been rejected and 2,48,077 names are kept on hold.

The NRC does not distinguish migrants on the basis of religion. It calls for the deportation of all those who entered the state illegally post March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion.

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