Union Home Minister Amit Shah will table the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha on Monday. The bill is likely to trigger a showdown in Parliament.
The bill proposes an amendment in a 1955 law to provide citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. If passed, it will grant citizenship to persecuted people from these communities, provided they have resided in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014.
The proposed law was approved by the 16th Lok Sabha but it lapsed after not being introduced in the Rajya Sabha. This time too, its passage in the Lower House is expected to be easy, where the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has majority. However, the government may find it difficult to push it through the Upper House.
Protests have been going on against the draft law in the North East and cities such as Delhi and Bengaluru. Opposition parties such as the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Trinamool Congress, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are against the amendments. Echoing Majlis’ leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday warned that passage of the Bill would mark the definitive victory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s politics over that of Mahatma Gandhi’s, and reduce India to a “Hindutva version of Pakistan”.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party maintained that the legislation is required to provide refuge to “persecuted minorities” in neighbouring countries, NDTV reported. “This bill intends to protect people who have been religiously persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh...so how can you expect it to be secular?” Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Home Minister Shah may announce some “alternative arrangements” to address Manipur’s concerns. These measures could either be an entry and exit permit system or a provision for Inner Line Permit, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who led a delegation to meet Shah on December 3, told The Indian Express.
“The Union Home Minister assured us that an alternative arrangement would be made to protect the indigenous communities of Manipur,” said Singh. “We had proposed one of two courses — re-establishment of the Entry and Exit Permit System which was in place till 1950, or extension of the ILP to Manipur.”
The Inner Line Permit is a document that Indian citizens from other states require to enter Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and most of Nagaland. It flows from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, which was put in place in 1873 by the colonial government to insulate the plains and valleys of the North East, replete with commercial potential, from the hills inhabited by tribes whom the British deemed ungovernable and “savage”. Outsiders cannot overstay the timeline mentioned in their permits.