Citizenship Amendment Bill
People holding placards outside of Assam Administrative College during public hearing meeting on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at Assam Administrative College in Guwahati on 07-05-18. Pix by UB Photos
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A bill seeking to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangaldesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan was approved by Lok Sabha on 8th of January 2019.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha, said the six communities — Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — faced “discrimination and religious persecution” and they “have no place to go, except India.”

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Union home minister Rajnath Singh, however, said the bill does not discriminate on religious lines. Contrary to what people in Assam believed, the proposed amendment would not put the burden of migrants solely on Assam, he said. “This is not just for Assam, but this is valid for all states and Union territories as well and neither is this for people of one particular country. This amendment is for migrants who have come through eastern borders and staying in different parts of India as well. The responsibility will not be Assam’s alone and whatever steps are needed to be taken, the centre will take,” Singh informed the Lok Sabha.

Singh said the Union Cabinet had also approved grant of ST status to six communities of Assam — Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak. “A separate Bill will be brought to grant ST status to Bodo Kacharis in Hill districts of Assam and Karbis in the rest of Assam. Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the Autonomous District Councils,” he said. “Some of these demands have been made since 1980.”

The opposition in the Rajya Sabha has raised objections to the proposed amendment in the bill, which excludes Muslims and minorities from Nepal and Sri Lanka. Opposition parties are thus likely to push for the bill to be referred to a select committee before it is discussed in the Rajya Sabha.

A day-long shut down held against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, across the northeast today, in which five people were injured. Assam has been witnessing protests since the NDA government said it was going ahead with the controversial bill and yesterday, Asom Gana Parishad, a regional ally of the BJP. The state has been witnessing protests since the NDA government said it was going ahead with the controversial bill.

The Congress said many States have opposed the Bill and it should be sent to a select committee. As the government did not heed to the demand, party MPs staged a walkout.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker Saugata Roy said the Bill was “divisive and insidious that goes against the basic tenents of the Constitution.”

“This is the worst form of vote-bank politics,” Mr. Roy said.

Opposing the Bill, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM said, “You are giving citizenship on the basis of the religion. You can’t run India like Israel. This government is making a mistake and will have to pay for it.” Some people ask why Christians were included in the bill. But they have also suffered since the partition, so we have included them in the amended bill. How can there be a more secular bill,” the minister added.

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