A Joint Parliamentary Committee on Thursday adopted a report clearing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks amendments in the Citizenship Act, 1955, PTI reported. The amendment grants citizenship of India to minority communities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, after six years of residence instead of 12.
Bharatiya Janata Party members of the committee also moved a recommendation that all steps be taken to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, the Assam Tribune reported. According to the clause, the Centre has to enact constitutional, legislative and administrative measures to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the state’s indigenous communities. The Centre on Wednesday approved the setting up of another high-level panel to implement the clause.
The BJP had 14 members on the Joint Parliamentary Committee, whereas the Congress had four, the Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal two each, and several other regional parties one member each. The decision of the committee to adopt the report was not unanimous, a non-BJP member of the panel told The Indian Express. Three members – Bhartruhari Mahtab, Mohammad Salim and Javed Ali Khan – may submit dissenting notes to chairperson and BJP leader Rajendra Agrawal on Friday.
An acrimonious exchange between Congress MP Bhubaneswar Kalita and Agrawal during the meeting led to Kalita walking out, the Assam Tribune reported. Later, Kalita told reporters that by making some small changes to one clause of the Assam Accord, the Centre has “very cleverly” diluted another one.
“The JPC rejected all suggestions of the Opposition members,” he claimed according to The Sentinel. “It was not even ready to hold any discussion on the bill at today’s meeting. That prompted me to stage a walkout.”
Agrawal told media persons that the report will be submitted to Parliament on January 7. “As the Lok Sabha Speaker [Sumitra Mahajan gave us the task, we will submit the report in the Lok Sabha,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said all Opposition parties should unite against the bill. He said the Assam Accord and the Citizenship Bill are two separate matters. “If there is religious persecution of Bengali Hindus in Bangladesh, then why has the Government of India not taken it up with the neighbouring country?” he asked. “The BJP thinks that the people of Assam are gullible and the bill is a big insult to the Assamese people.”
The Asom Gana Parishad, an ally of the BJP, has opposed the bill, and said it will withdraw from the alliance if it is passed in Parliament.