What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill? All you need to know

Updated: 10 December, 2019 13:17 IST | mid-day online correspondent | New Delhi

This bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Lok Sabha (Photo: PTI)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Lok Sabha (Photo: PTI)

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. After over seven-hour-long debate, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha with 311 members favouring it and 80 voting against it.

According to the proposed legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship.

Who is eligible?

The bill will make amendments to the Citizenship Act 1955 to provide legal aid for citizenship. The bill applies to people who were "forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion". It will protect these people from proceedings of illegal migration. For this, the applicant must have entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

Who are these illegal migrants?

According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, illegal migrants are those who have entered India without any legal documents like passports and visas or have stayed longer than the period mentioned on those documents.

First introduced in 2016

The bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016, but it was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha then.

BJP's 2014 promise

In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had said it would introduce this bill and the same was reiterated during the 2019 elections. At a meeting last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had made it clear that  the bill was the top priority of the government. "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 had said.

What the Opposition has said

Soon after the bill was cleared in the Lok Sabha, Opposition parties voiced their discontent and said it was against national interest. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi took to Twitter and said, "At the stroke of the midnight hour, while the world slept, India's ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice were betrayed. I fought hard against it and I promise every Indian that this fight isn't over. Don't let hopelessness come near you. Be defiant, be strong."

Meanwhile, the North East Students' Organisation (NESO), backed by various other bodies and political parties, will observe a shutdown till 4 pm against the Bill. Security was beefed up in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, PTI reported.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram described the Bill as "patently unconstitutional" and said with its passage in Parliament, the battleground will shift to the Supreme Court. He claimed that the elected lawmakers were abdicating their responsibilities in favour of lawyers and judges.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that it is a "black day" for the Constitution. "It is a black day for our Constitution because what happened was unconstitutional. It [the Bill] very clearly targets the Muslim community, it is very shameful," Tharoor told ANI.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay also said that the Bill is against the "national integration". "TMC is a firm believer of unity and diversity and does not support division of the country on the basis of religion," he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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First Published: 10 December, 2019 10:29 IST

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