The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh got the Union Cabinet’s nod on Wednesday. Sources said the Bill was cleared at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
An indication that the Bill would be taken up in Parliament in the current winter session was made on Tuesday itself when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting about the government’s intentions on the issue. The party had also issued whips to its MPs to be present in the Houses in the coming days to ensure its passage. At a briefing of the Cabinet meeting, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said the government has taken care of the interests of everyone and “the interest of India”. “People will welcome it as it is in the interest of the nation,” he said when asked about the protests in the Northeast.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB, has been opposed by several Opposition parties with Congress threatening to go to Supreme Court to challenge the proposed legislation. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI-M and a few other political parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill, claiming that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion. The Cabinet approval to the bill came barely hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah completed his marathon interactions, spreading over three days, with leaders of political parties, students bodies and civil society members from the Northeast to assuage their concerns. Veteran Congress leader and three-time Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the Congress will move the Supreme Court against the CAB which is “unconstitutional” and “divisive”.
“The Congress will move the SC because we believe that CAB is unconstitutional and against the spirit of secularism. It is divisive, and violates the constitutional provision - equality for all. There cannot be division on basis of religion, caste or creed,” he said in a tweet. A large section of people and organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion. The BJP had introduced the bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s approval. But it did not introduce it in the Rajya Sabha, apparently due to protests. The Bill lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.