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Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 Passed by Parliament

The Citizenship Amendment Bill has been cleared by both of the houses of the Parliament, with Rajya Sabha being the latest (with a vote share of 125 in favour and 105 against it). Earlier the Bill was introduced and passed by Lok Sabha with high majority.

About the Bill:
The bill proposes to accord citizenship rights to illegal Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It, naturally, implies that migrants, who identify themselves with any group or community other than those mentioned above, from these countries won’t be eligible for citizenship.

The bill also relaxes the provisions for “Citizenship by naturalization”. The proposed law reduces duration of residency from existing 11 years to just five years for people belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

The Beneficiaries:

  • The Bill covers six communities namely Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. As per the Citizenship Act of 1955, an illegal immigrant cannot get citizenship in India.
  • An illegal migrant is defined as people who either entered the country without proper documents, or stayed on beyond the permitted time.
  • In 2015, the government made changes to the passport and foreigner’s acts to allow non-Muslim refugees from these countries to stay back in India even if they entered the country without valid papers.

Who all are left out?

  • The opposition comes on the ground that the bill is discriminatory as it singles out Muslims who constitute nearly 15 percent of country’s population.
  • The Government on its part clarified that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Islam Republics where Muslims are in majority and hence they cannot be treated as persecuted minorities.
  • It also assures that the Government will examine the application from any other community on case to case basis.
  • Critics point out that the move is part of a Hindu supremacist agenda pushed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since it came to power nearly six years ago.
  • The Bill also does not include countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal or Myanmar within it s ambit. These countries also consists of some or the other kind of persecuted minorities.

Ex: The Tamils in Sri Lanka, Rohingyas in Myanmar etc.

Background of the Bill:

  • It was one of the poll promises of the NDA government. The Bill in its earlier form was passed in January 2019, ahead of the general elections.
  • It again sought to grant Indian citizenship to the six non-Muslim communities-Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsis, Jain and Sikh.
  • It reduced the mandatory requirement of 12 years stay in India to seven years to be eligible for citizenship if they do not possess any document.
  • The earlier Bill was referred to Joint parliamentary Committee, however the Bill lapsed as it could not be taken up in Rajya Sabha.

The Bill has triggered widespread protests in the Northeastern states widespread protests in the Northeastern states where many feel that permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region’s demography and further burden resources and decrease employment opportunities for indigenous people. A large section of people and organizations opposing the bill also say that it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985.

There are no official figures other than records furnished by the Intelligence Bureau before the JPC saying there are 31,313 persons belonging to these minority communities living in India on Long Term Visa. As per the IB records the numbers are – Hindus 25,447, Sikhs 5,807, Christians 55, Buddhists 2 and Parsis 2.

SOURCE: Economic Times, Hew Indian Express

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