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Amendments in Citizenship Bill moved by Oppn defeated at JPC meet

December 31, 2018 21:04 IST

All amendments moved by the Opposition in the Joint Parliamentary Committee of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to grant Indian nationality to people belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, were defeated on Monday.

Now, the draft will be finalised by the JPC, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Rajendra Agrawal, in its next meeting to be held on January 3.

It will be presented in the Lok Sabha next week in its original form.

All Opposition-sponsored amendments were defeated at the JPC meeting held on Monday, a Rajya Sabha MP, who attended the meeting said.

 

The numerical advantage of the BJP in the 30-member panel was clearly reflected in the clause-by-clause voting in each of the amendments moved by the opposition members, a source said.

The BJP has 14 MPs, including Agrawal, in the 30-member panel. The Congress has four members while the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal have two MPs each. The Shiv Sena, the Janata Dal-United, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the Telugu Desam Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahuja Samaj Party have one member each in the panel.

The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant Indian nationality to people belonging to minority communities -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians -- in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12, even if they don't possess any proper document.

This was an election promise of the BJP in 2014.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI-M and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship cannot be given on basis of religion.

Congress member Bhubaneswar Kalita and Biju Janata Dal's Bhartruhari Mahtab moved separate amendments to exclude Bangladesh from the purview of the bill but both the amendments were defeated, another MP said.

The bill is likely to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on January 7.

The Winter Session of Parliament comes to an end on January 8.

Various members from opposition parties have been asserting that citizenship is a constitutional provision and it cannot be based on religion, as India is a secular nation.

An opposition member said since all the amendments were defeated, if the bill in its present form comes into effect, then it will nullify the Assam Accord under which anyone entering the state illegally after March 1971, should be declared foreigner and deported.

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 illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Even the governments of Meghalaya and Mizoram have strongly opposed the bill and adopted resolutions against it.

TMC members raised five points in the meeting. The party alleged that out of 38 lakh people whose citizenship is under threat, about 28 lakh are Bengali-speaking Hindus.

The TMC members alleged that Bengali-speaking Hindus were being targeted as outsiders by vigilante groups in Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya and other states.

It claimed that Bengali-speaking Hindus were targeted in the Tinsukia massacre, where hand of senior BJP leader was suspected and non Bengali-speaking Hindus who did not fulfil National Register of Citizens criterion have been assured that they will be included in the NRC.

The JPC has already taken six extensions from the Lok Sabha Speaker. Last time it had sought time for the presentation of the report was on the 'first day of the last week of the Winter Session, 2018'.

During the course of its examination and study visits, the committee met a cross section of people in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and Meghalaya and heard views of organisations, individuals, experts and others over the issue.

The committee also heard the views of chief secretaries and police chiefs of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

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