Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to ease the lingering pains of Partition
09 December 2019
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha today seeks to assure former citizens of India or their descendents facing persecution in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh fearless and better lives in India. The bill applies to religious minorities in the two countries tormented by the majority Muslim population in the two countries.
The bill, however, is facing criticism from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political opponents and detractors such as the `rights groups’ who object to the exclusion of Muslims from these countries in the bill.
Reacting to the criticism of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) that was passed by the Union Cabinet a few days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said Indian citizenship to those who are facing persecution in their home countries will make sure that such people, who would have earlier opted for Indian citizenship, would be able to live a better life.
There is nothing wrong in correcting past mistakes, he said, adding that pessimism has no future.
“The Ram Janmabhoomi verdict proved that we can have a better tomorrow. We cannot be chained by the past. People were casting aspersions that the verdict will cause unrest in the country, but the people of the country proved them wrong,” PM Modi said while speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, according to a report by news agency PTI.
The CAB proposes to grant citizenship rights to non-Muslims who face religious persecution in bordering countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Similar to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir that gave birth to new hopes of development in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, Modi said, the CAB would give new hope to those hapless Indians living in these countries.
“Hundreds of people from neighbouring countries, who are facing persecution in these countries, those who have faith in Mother India, with the road open for Indian citizenship, their better future will be ensured,” the PM said.
The opposition, especially the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, sees the Citizenship Amendment Bill as an extension of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and are hell bent to oppose it.
Meanwhile, a crucial meeting on Citizenship Amendment Bill is being chaired in the National Security Council Secretariat by the Deputy and National Security Advisor and the Intelligence chiefs of all the North-Eastern states, including the Principal Paramilitary force deployed there and other Paramilitary forces like CRPF.
This is to access the intelligence inputs that are coming into the various state government agencies and bring them on central platform for a report to be prepared for the home minister and the prime minister so as to take a final call on the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill through Parliament.
The Intelligence Bureau has claimed that the bill’s strict processes mean only a very small number of people will benefit.
If made into law, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, in theory, will allow Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to apply for Indian citizenship even if they had entered India illegally.
Significantly, the bill only opens up Indian citizenship to non-Muslim groups persecuted in Muslim-majority countries: a dynamic that would play well for the BJP’s domestic politics.
Opponents also pick holes in the legislation, saying it contravenes the move for a National Register of Citizens. It is unclear how a person excluded from the National Register of Citizens can make a fresh bid for citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Bill, they point out.
As per the Intelligence Bureau, this will be replicated for the Citizenship Amendment Bill and only a “small number” will be able to avail Indian citizenship. The rest, it claimed in its deposition, would “have already taken citizenship by various means,” referring to the various informal ways by which Bangladeshi migrants gain Indian citizenship.