Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as Assam continues to shimmer over it. After three decades, the state is witnessing non-stop agitations, both during day and night, like those we witnessed during the anti-foreigner Assam Movement in the eighties.
Though the agitators in Assam claimed that the Bill violates the spirit of secularism and nullified Assam Accord, Shah firmly denied allegations that it violates Article 14 of the Constitution – which guarantees equality before the law irrespective of nationality or religion.
The Bill – a major Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) plank – seeks to grant Indian citizenship to the people belonging to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis who have become the victims of religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and entered India on or before December 31st, 2014.
The original Citizenship Act of 1955 states individuals seeking Indian citizenship should have lived in the country for 11 of the last 14 years. The amendment proposes to reduce that time period to five years for non-Muslim applicants and grants them immunity from government action. Countering the opposition leaders, Shah said that this bill has nothing to do with minorities in the country, it is about minorities in neighbouring countries.
The six-year-long Assam Movement which culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord has fixed March 24th, 1971 as the cut-off to identify illegal foreigners. The new draft of the bill’s exemptions has piqued political interest across the country.
In the 545-member Lok Sabha, the ruling BJP has 303 members. Shah tabled the Bill with 293 votes for and 82 votes against it. In the 245-member Rajya Sabha, the BJP has 81 MPs. The Bill is expected to have a smooth passage in both the Houses. Shah announced to exempt Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur from the purview of Bill.
The original Citizenship Act, 1955 states individuals seeking Indian citizenship should have lived in the country for 11 of the last 14 years. The new amendment seeks to reduce that time period to six years for non-Muslim applicants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and grants them immunity from any government action.
Now the question of the hour is if the bill turns into an Act how are the agitators going to adapt to the legislation because most of the protesting bodies have been vocal that they would fight against the bill till their last blood and cannot accept the bill at any cost. We hope that the legislation is made keeping in the purview of the people expressing their resentment.