- What is Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide Indian nationality to six communities — Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants in the select categories eligible for citizenship.
- What does the government say:
Defence minister Rajnath Singh made it clear at the meeting of the BJP parliamentary party on Tuesday that the contentious legislation was the top priority of the government, equating its significance with the decision to turn Article 370 into a dead letter. “Minorities in the neighbouring theocratic countries have been subjected to continuous persecutions, which forced them to seek asylum in India. Giving citizenship to six minorities will be yet another push from the Modi government to the spirit of ‘sarva dharma sambhav’,” Singh said.
- What does the opposition say:
The legislation has been attacked by opposition parties, minority outfits and others for leaving out Muslims and also on the grounds that it is at odds with the Constitution, which does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith.
- Who are the parties opposing/supporting the Bill?
Congress, Trinamool, DMK, Samajwadi Party, RJD and Left, and even regional parties like BJD have expressed reservations. BJP’s Assam ally AGP seemed to have warmed up to the idea of CAB after the government assured changes to the Bill. The government is likely to get the support of regional allies — Akali Dal and JD(U). AIADMK, meanwhile, is likely to take a cautious approach before clarifying its stand on the Bill.
- Will the government be able to get the Bill passed?
While BJP is not likely to face any opposition in Lok Sabha owing to its overwhelming majority in the Lower House, in Rajya Sabha it is banking on the support of allies like JD(U) and Akali Dal. The opposition, however, is hoping that BJP’s allies will not be as enthusiastic about the legislation and “friendly” parties like AIADMK will also be constrained to carefully consider whether to support the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
- Why are some northeast states opposing the Bill?
The CAB has sparked resentment in the northeast as it is feared that granting citizenship to foreign refugees will undermine the ethnic communities living in these regions. There are indications that the government is working out a compromise. Formulations like provision of citizenship not leading to residency status in the smaller north-east states were discussed.
- Why has BJP’s Assam-ally AGP taken a U-turn on CAB?
In January last year, BJP’s ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had pulled out of NDA after Lok Sabha passed the earlier version of the Bill, which BJP had introduced in Parliament in 2016. When the Bill lapsed in the Lok Sabha, AGP returned to the alliance. Recently, the AGP has indicated a U-turn on the proposed Bill. “We have to move forward with the reality — neither can we expel lakhs of illegal migrants nor will Bangladesh ever take them back. We had our government twice in the past but we could not even identify the illegal migrants. Unfortunately, the Assam Accord has only gathered dust for over 34 years,” AGP member and Assam minister Atul Bora said.