NEW DELHI, Dec 11: Rajya Sabha on Wednesday approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, completing the legislative procedure for giving Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Replying to a six-and-a-half-hour debate on the bill, Home Minister Amit Shah said the legislation seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities in the three countries and not take away citizenship of anyone.
He rejected the Opposition charge that the bill was against Muslims and said they have nothing to fear.
The Bill was passed with 125 votes in favour and 105 against it. Besides BJP, its allies such as JD-U and SAD, the legislation was supported by AIADMK, BJD, TDP and YSR-Congress.
Earlier the House rejected motions to send the bill to a select committee of the House with 124 members voting against it as compared to 99 in its favour.
The House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members to the bill, most by voice vote.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday. It will now go to the President for his assent.
On why persecuted minorities from countries such as Sri Lanka were not part of the legislation, Shah said Tamils from the island country had been given Indian citizenship in past and the present law is to tackle a specific problem
To repeated questions from opposition of Muslims being left out, he said Muslims from other countries have the right to apply for Indian citizenship as per existing rules. As many as 566 Muslims have been given citizenship, he said.
He attacked opposition the Congress saying statements by the party’s leaders match those of Pakistani leaders on not just the citizenship bill but also on scrapping of Article 370.
Asserting that neither the citizenship bill, nor the previously passed legislation making practice of triple talaq punishable and the scrapping Article 370 are anti-Muslim, he said the present legislation is to give citizenship and does not to take away citizenship of anyone.
Indian Muslims are citizens of the country and will remain so, he said. “Citizenship of Indian Muslims is not being taken away.”
“Citizenship bill is not to snatch anyone’s Indian citizenship. Muslims have no need to fear or worry,” he said.
Shah said the bill seeks to correct the wrong done by the partition of the country on religious lines. He went on to attack the Congress for alleged double speak on the issue, saying the party had during its rule given Indian citizenship to 13,000 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan without raising a word about the same for other communities.
He also said the bill does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution as it does not prohibit laws based on reasonable classification.
Muslims have not been included for giving citizenship because the proposed law is for persecuted minorities in the three countries, he said.
Guwahati, the epicentre of anti-CAB protests, was placed under indefinite curfew and Army was deployed in the city and Assam Rifles personnel were deployed in Tripura on Wednesday as the two northeastern states plunged into chaos over the hugely emotive Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, officials said.
Army PRO Lt Col P Khongsai said two Army columns have been deployed in Guwahati and are carrying out flag marches.
Reports from Tinsukia quoting officials said the Army has been deployed in the district and was carrying out flag marches.
A Defence spokesman had earlier said in a statement in Shillong that two columns of the Army were deployed in Tripura.
In a late evening clarification, it said that troops of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force commanded by Army officials, were pressed into service in Tripura.
Internet services have been suspended in 10 districts of Assam, beginning 7 pm on Wednesday, as massive protests raged across cities, to prevent “misuse” of social media to disturb peace and tranquility and maintain law and order.
Internet services have been suspended in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup, a notification issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Political Department) Kumar Sanjay Krishna, said.
Internet services are already suspended in the entire state of Tripura for 48 hours from 2 pm on Tuesday to thwart attempts by mischief mongers to disturb peace. An order issued by the Tripura government also prohibits SMSes on the networks of all mobile service providers.
As tens of thousands of anti-CAB protesters descended on the streets of Assam on Wednesday, clashing with police and plunging the state into chaos of a magnitude unseen since the violent 6-year movement by students that ended with the signing of the Assam accord, Guwahati was placed under curfew.
Initially, Assam police chief Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta told PTI that the curfew, which began at 6:15 pm on Wednesday, will continue till 7 am on Thursday. However, he later informed that it has been extended indefinitely.
Defying the curfew order protesters were still on the streets of Guwahati where most arterial roads were blocked.
The Congress party has, meanwhile, called a shutdown in Tripura on Thursday.
Though no party or student body had called a shutdown in Assam, protesters, a majority of them students, fought pitched battles with security forces, including in front of the secretariat, the seat of the BJP government.
Police fired tear gas shells and baton-charged protesters, who fought back.
Assam smouldered with protests rocking several parts of the state on the day the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was hotly debated and passed in the Rajya Sabha after its passage by the Lok Sabha on Monday.
Some student leaders, who went live on national TV, claimed many agitators were injured in police action in front of the secretariat.
According to unofficial accounts, hundreds of protesters have been detained in Guwahati and other places like Dibrugarh and Jorhat.
Similar incidents were reported from Tripura capital Agartala.
Police opened fire in Assam capital Dispur to quell a protest by the agitators after water cannons, baton-charge and tear gas failed to rein them in. Police also fired at Ulubari, which is barely 500 m from the state police headquarters.
A large number of agitated students blocked the road near the secretariat complex and pulled down the barricade erected on the arterial G S Road, provoking police action.
Police burst teargas shells and baton-charged the protesters, who were seen lobbing back the shells at men in uniform.
They also damaged a stage erected on the road for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Sunday.
The agitators pulled down hoardings and banners advertising the government’s welfare schemes and made a bonfire of those before the secretariat, damaged the police commissioner and joint police commissioner’s vehicles, set on fire buses and other vehicles in scenes reminiscent of the 6-year movement by students against illegal settlers that ended with the signing of the Assam accord in 1985.
In a rare show of solidarity with the protesters, government employees at the secretariat wore ‘gamosa’, the state’s symbol of honour, and stood behind the gates and chanted slogans against the CAB.
The Assam Secretariat Employees’ Association also issued a statement supporting the protests and opposing the CAB.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was reported to have been stranded for some time at the Guwahati airport on his return from Tezpur because of the agitation.
Protesters blocked almost every road in Guwahati and state capital Dispur by placing burning discarded tyres, leaving officegoers stranded.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) of Akhil Gogoi has called a ‘hartal’ to protest against the controversial bill until it is withdrawn.
Life virtually came to a grinding halt in Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Sivsagar, parts of Guwahati and in some districts of Lower Assam.
Gauhati and Dibrugarh Universities have postponed all examinations scheduled till December 14.
Classes in most universities and colleges were not held as students joined the protests. Schools were open but there were hardly any children as buses they were travelling on were stranded.
Anti-CAB agitators also clashed with police in Dibrugarh where rubber bullets and tear gas shells were fired to break up protests. A journalist was reported injured in an stone throwing incident in Dibrugarh.
In view of the protests, the Northeast Frontier Railway has cancelled many trains and rescheduled some that originate from the state.
At least 31 trains have either been cancelled, short terminated or diverted anticipating “disruptions in train movement,” NF Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Subhanan Chanda said in a statement. PTI
Black day for indigenous people: NESO
ITANAGAR, Dec 11: The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has termed the day (11 Dec), on which the CAB was passed in Rajya Sabha as ‘Black Day’ for the indigenous peoples of the North East.
The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday approved the CAB, completing the legislative procedure for giving Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
NESO termed it as “sinister ploy of the government of India to reduce the indigenous peoples of North East to a minority in their own land by granting Indian citizenship to the illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh.”
“The government, instead of detaining and deporting these illegal infiltrators from our land, is granting them Indian citizenship. This will only encourage more infiltration from Bangladesh,” NESO said in a press statement.
It said that the approval of the contentious CAB by the Union Cabinet on 4 December and the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on 9 and 11 December respectively is spelling a bleak future for the indigenous peoples of the NE.
“This is another political injustice perpetrated by the Government of India on the microscopic indigenous communities of North East,” it added.