Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday called on the state Assembly to discuss the Citizenship Amendment Act, NDTV reported. Kumar’s statement came after Opposition parties Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal criticised the law in a special session of the Assembly.
In Parliament, Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) had voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act. However, soon after, differences surfaced within the party, with leaders such as Prashant Kishor and KC Tyagi opposing the law. In tweets on Sunday, Kishor said the party would not implement either the Citizenship Amendment Act or the National Register of Citizens in Bihar.
“If everyone wants, then there will be a discussion [on Citzenship Amendment Act] in this House,” Nitish Kumar told the Assembly. “As for NRC, there is no question of the NRC and no justification for it.” The Janata Dal (United) is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Kumar had rejected the NRC earlier too, but on Monday he was vocal in his criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Act for the first time.
However, he has not taken a firm stand about the National Population Register, Hindustan Times reported. Kumar’s deputy and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has announced that the exercise to update the population register in the state will begin on May 15 and go on till May 28. “If there is any new addition to NPR, I will find out,” he added. Opposition parties such as the Congress have raised questions about the links of the National Population Register to the National Register of Citizens.
Citizenship Amendment Act, NRC and NPR
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people died in last month’s protests against the law. Of these, 19 died in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka.
The Census of India website, meanwhile, describes the NPR as “the first step towards the creation of a NRC”. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants and distinguish them from genuine Indian citizens. One such exercise, carried out in Assam last year, resulted in the exclusion of 19 lakh people, or 6% of the state’s population.