New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, despite opposition within Parliament and widespread protests across Northeast.
The contentious bill was introduced by Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who justified the allegedly communally divisive bill, and said, “The burden of illegal immigrants will not borne by Assam, it will be shared by different states.”
While the bill was being debated in the lower house, members of Congress and All India Trinamool Congress staged a walkout after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan refused to accede to their request to send the Bill to a select committee for further scrutiny.
The contentious bill which PM Modi had termed as a “penance for all the injustice done during partition”, during his recent visit to Assam, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan (persecuted non-muslim immigrants) if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents. The existing law states that “citizenship of India by naturalisation can be acquired by a foreigner (not illegal migrant) who is ordinarily resident in India for twelve years”.
Rajnath Singh was quoted by news reports as saying, “The countries where minorities were subjected to violence have only been able to find safe shelter in India. We regulated their entry, stay in India, but despite these changes, they cannot apply for citizenship as they are considered migrants.”
Although the bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, the draft law is yet to be passed in the Rajya Sabha, while the upper house was supposed to conclude on Tuesday, it was extended until Wednesday after business remained pending.
Meanwhile, during the 11-hour bandh called by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and 30 other student and civil bodies including the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) on Tuesday, as a mark of protest against the citizenship bill, sporadic incidents of violence were reported from across the northeast.
On Monday, after the Joint Parliamentary report on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha, Assam had witnessed protests and observed a “Black Day” in several parts. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an important ally of the BJP in Assam, also severed its ties with the saffron party due to disagreements about the legislation.