Rajnath Singh introduces Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha
08 January 2019
Union home minister Rajnath Singh today introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha. The bill seeks to facilitate acquisition of citizenship by six identified minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis, who have migrated to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 31 December 2014.
Moving the bill, the home minister clarified that the Act will not be confined to the state of Assam. The bill will apply to all states and union territories of the country and that the beneficiaries can reside in any state of the country.
“The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden and Government of India is committed to give all help to the state government and people of Assam,” said Rajnath Singh.
Dispelling the misgivings about Citizenship Amendment Act, Rajnath Singh highlighted the discrimination and religious persecution faced by these communities in these countries. They have no place to go to, except India, he said. The Act will provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other States, he added.
Migrants from these communities were earlier given protection against legal action in years 2015 and 2016. Long term visa provision was made for them.
The proposed amendment will make these migrants eligible to apply for citizenship. Citizenship will be given to them only after due scrutiny and recommendation of district authorities and the state governments. The minimum residency period for citizenship, however, has been reduced from existing 12 years under the present law to 7 years.
The home minister said the present government has taken several measures to implement the Assam Accord. An important pillar of Assam Accord is Clause 6 dealing with constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for protection of cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people, he said.
The home ministry on 5 January notified the setting up of a high level committee consisting of eminent and persons from Assamese society with a very wide mandate to suggest such safeguards for protection of the Assamese identity, including reservation in the state assembly and in jobs. The committee will submit its report within six months, he added.
The centre has also given approval to move the bill in Parliament granting ST status to six communities of Assam, namely Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak. Government has waived the requirement of cabinet approval. A bill is being introduced in the current session of Parliament.
At the same time, Rajnath Singh said, full safeguards will be provided to protect the interests, rights and privileges of existing scheduled tribes of Assam. 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, he said. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the Autonomous District Councils, he added.
A large number of people in Assam and other North Eastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it would nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after 1971 should be deported.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill has appreciated the government’s decision to give Indian nationality to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, claiming such people were being subjected to “unfair treatment” in those countries.
In its 440-page report, the panel headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal said, “Display of such supportive and humanitarian approach on the part of the government towards the minorities who fled the three countries, including Bangladesh, due to religious persecution is quite appreciable.” The JPC report was submitted to the Lok Sabha on Monday and adopted through a majority vote, amidst dissent notes by opposition members.