Union Cabinet clears contentious CAB; set to be introduced in Parliament despite stiff opposition

NEW DELHI/GUWAHATI, Dec 4: The contentious citizenship bill, which has created strong resentment in the Northeastern states and is dubbed as “divisive” by opposition, was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday and is set to be tabled in Parliament.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB, which aims to provide citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, has been opposed by several opposition parties with Congress threatening to go to Supreme Court to challenge the proposed legislation.
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 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.
Officials said the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime areas and those regions which are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution are learnt to have been excluded from the purview of the bill.
In terms of Section 2 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, the Inner Line Permit system is prevalent in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. Citizens of other states require ILP for visiting these three states.
Under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, autonomous councils and districts were created in tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. The autonomous councils and districts enjoy certain executive and legislative powers.
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.
Congress’s Shashi Tharoor said it violates the basic idea of India that religion can never be a reason for citizenship.
“Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood… that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maulana Azad, Dr Ambedkar have said, that religion cannot determine nationhood,” he told reporters in Parliament premises.
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 All India United Democratic Front, has written a letter to Shah, requesting him not to introduce the CAB in Parliament as it is “against the interest of people of Assam and the country”.
Twelve MPs from the Northeast wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week saying civil society groups of the region are opposing the bill.
Despite facing serious opposition, including from ally JD-U, the BJP has expressed its determination to pass the bill.
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-led NDA government 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 vehement protests in the Northeast.
The bill lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha. PTI