Decoded: Cabinet passes Citizenship Amendment Bill - what is it and how will it work?
Photo: PTI

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the way for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. According to sources, a bill to amend the the Citizenship Act, 1955, is likely to be introduced in the Parliament in the next two days, reports PTI.

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019?

The Bill seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It will amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to make illegal migrants in select categories eligible for citizenship.

Who is opposed to the bill?

The bill has been opposed vehemently by opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool, DMK, Samajwadi Party, RJD and the Left. Even regional parties like BJD have expressed reservations.

Many have attacked the legislation for leaving out Muslims. It is also, according to protesters, against the Constitution.

It has also sparked resentment in the northeast. According to IANS, there are indications that the government is working out a compromise intended to reassure states in the region over the implications of granting citizenship to a large number of Hindus who have come from Bangladesh over the decades.

As All Assam Students' Union chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya told ANI on Tuesday, "They (Centre) are planning to bring Citizenship Amendment Bill as it is good for the country. However, we said it is bad for Assam and the northeast. The movement against the Bill will continue throughout Assam".

He also claimed that the centre was attempting to give citizenship to 'illegal Hindus' through the bill.

"They are trying to give citizenship to all illegal Hindu Bangladeshis. This is something that we cannot accept. Assam is not a dumping ground for illegal Bangladeshis", he said.

What does the government have to say?

On Tuesday Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rejected the opposition's criticism of the the Citizenship Bill. He asserted that the BJP has always worked to unite the country and its people, reports PTI.

Sources said Singh also made a reference to the charge that the bill was against secularism as its beneficiaries excluded Muslims. He said the three neighbouring countries were essentially Islamic nations and so it is non-Muslims and not Muslims who are at the receiving end of religious persecution there.

Speaking on Tuesday, he had added that BJP MPs must be present in Parliament in large numbers when Shah tables the bill.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Home Minister Amit Shah met with several politicians and activists of Northeast states including the chief minister of Mizoram to discuss the Bill. Following the meeting, Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that a lot of confusion has been eliminated.

"There are still some issues but some solutions have also been found," he added.

Shah had been conducting meeting over the Bill for the past few days and the discussions with different stakeholders went for over 100 hours, reported ANI.

Speaking about the discussions held in the meeting, North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convener Himanta Biswa Sarma said that Shah had also met representatives of different north-east states and Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga.

Stating that there will no protest and CAB will satisfy each and every person, he maintained that there will be some protests which no one can deny as political risk is involved in it.

He also said that the Bill did not particularly put emphasis on Hindus. "There is no mention of Hindu in the manifesto of the Bill. The stress has been laid on minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, which includes Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Parsis," he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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