ITANAGAR, Dec 9: The Lok Sabha passed the citizenship amendment bill (CAB) after 12 hours of heated argument on Monday.
Altogether 311 MPs voted in favour of the bill while 80 voted against it.
During the course of the debate on the bill, union Home Minister Amit Shah said neither Muslims nor those from the Northeast should fear the bill because it only aims to help minority immigrants.
“Lakhs and crores of such people have been suffering without homes, education and hygiene,” he said.
The home minister said that areas under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation and the 6th schedule areas in the region will be excluded from the bill’s purview.
“We’re protecting the linguistic and social uniqueness of the Northeast region under this bill. A lot of people are trying to instill fear, knowingly or unknowingly. I want to inform everyone that there is no reason for anyone to be afraid of the bill,” Shah said, even though large parts of Assam and Sikkim, and some parts of Meghalaya come under the CAB.
Manipur to be brought under ILP regime
The home minister said that Manipur would be included in the inner line permit (ILP) regime, thereby “exempting” it from the provisions of the CAB.
In August 2018, Manipur’s state assembly had passed the Manipur People’s Protection Act. In Manipur, implementation of the ILP system has been a longstanding demand of the people.
Arunachal, Nagaland and Mizoram, which have the ILP regime, have been exempted from the bill, and so have the tribal areas under the 6th schedule in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura under Clause 6B (4). The bill states that “nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the 6th schedule to the constitution and the area covered under the inner line notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who have come from
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh prior to 31 December, 2014, owing to religious persecution in those countries, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship, according to the bill.
Asserting that the CAB had the endorsement of India’s 130 crore nationals, Shah on Monday introduced the controversial bill in the Lok Sabha after a heated debate followed by division of votes, forced by opposition members who dubbed it “unconstitutional.”
Opposition leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Saugata Roy, NK Premchandran, Gaurav Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor and Assaduddin Owaisi opposed the introduction of the bill, saying it was violative of various provisions of the constitution, including the move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.
The tabling of the emotive bill came even as there were protests and incidents of violence in the northeastern states, with most of the student unions and regional political parties opposing it, saying it would nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed 24 March, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion.
Trying to allay apprehensions of the people of the Northeast, Shah said the Narendra Modi government “is committed to protect the customs and cultures of the people of the region,” and informed that Manipur will also be brought under the ILP regime, where the proposed law will not be applicable.
During the debate, which was marked by heated arguments, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also tore a copy of the bill, saying it was aimed at making Muslims “stateless” and would lead to “another partition.”
Opposing the bill, Congress MP Manish Tewari said the bill is “unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the constitution, which is secular.”
“The bill is against the constitution, against the spirit of constitution, and against the ideology propounded by Babasaheb Ambedkar,” Tewari said.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the NRC and the CAB would never be allowed in Bengal as long as the TMC is in power.
Surpriya Sule (NCP) said the perception is that every Muslim is feeling insecure and the second largest minority community should not be made to feel left out.
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 due to vehement protests in the Northeast and lack of majority in the house.
Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said the bill is in violation of many articles of the constitution and the basic spirit of the preamble which talks of equality, liberty and fraternity.
Claiming that the BJP is “digging a political graveyard” for its NDA allies from the northeastern states, Gogoi appealed to those parties to vote with their conscience and not vote according to political compulsions in Parliament.
“I am saying there are political compulsions of these regional parties and it is a test in time that their vote on this bill will go down in history and people will remember them for that. They don’t understand that the BJP is digging a political graveyard for these parties,” he said.
Asked if the Congress would challenge the bill in the Supreme Court, he said, “I am sure if this bill is passed, there are some in the Congress party who are itching to challenge this in the court.”
“This bill is nothing but an exercise to distract from the failure of the BJP with respect to the NRC in Assam where around 19 lakh people have been excluded and many of them seem to be genuine Indians,” Gogoi said.
He also claimed that it is an attempt to divert attention from the government’s economic failures.
“It seems that the NRC was nothing but a political exercise for the BJP because when 40 lakh were excluded, Shah jumped and termed them infiltrators. Many of them turned out to be Indians,” Gogoi said.
“Any bill which seeks to erode the values of the constitution, seeks to erode the foundations of our country, seeks to weaken our country, the Congress party will oppose any such attempt,” Gogoi said.
“This bill is a symbol of the dictatorial attitude of the BJP. If they care about the people and the sentiments of the Northeast, then they would not have brought this bill and bulldozed it in such a fashion,” Gogoi said.
NESO announces bandh
Meanwhile, the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has announced a 12-hour bandh on 10 December in the entire Northeast region, except Nagaland, to protest against the CAB.
The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union, in support of the NESO, has also called a shutdown in Arunachal.
Arunachal Pradesh Director General of Police, RP Upadhyaya, who rushed back to the state capital from the DGPs’ conference, said all security measures have been taken to ensure peace during the bandh.