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Citizenship Bill tabled in Lok Sabha; to be discussed tomorrow

A report by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan was tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday. However, the bill is expected to be discussed in the lower house on Tuesday. The report was prepared by the Joint Parliamentary Committee by a majority vote as opposition members in the panel had objected to the provisions saying Indian citizenship cannot be granted on the basis of religion and it is against the Constitution.

Some of the opposition members have also given dissent notes over this.

BJP allies, the Shiv Sena and the JD(U), have already said that they will also oppose the bill.

The bill seeks to amend Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian nationality 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.

This was an election promise of the BJP in 2014.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI-M and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion.

Various members from opposition parties have been asserting that citizenship is a constitutional provision and it cannot be based on religion, as India is a secular nation.

Rather than resolving the situation in Assam, this bill is making the situation more volatile in the already tense state, an opposition member in the panel had alleged.

Echoing similar sentiments, a Congress member had said if all the proposed amendments come into force, then the Centre has to nullify the Assam Accord under which anyone, irrespective of religion, entering the state illegally after March 1971, should be declared foreigner and deported.

A large section of people and organisations in the Northeast have also 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.

Even the governments of Meghalaya and Mizoram have strongly opposed the bill and adopted resolutions against it.

During the course of its examination and study visits, the committee met a cross-section of people in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and Meghalaya and heard views of organisations, individuals, experts and others.

The committee also heard the views of the chief secretaries and police chiefs of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

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