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Citizenship Bill to be introduced in LS on Monday

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 05, 2019 23:37 IST

Notwithstanding stiff opposition, the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is likely to be introduced in Lok Sabha on December 9 and will be taken up for discussion and passage the next day.

The passage of the bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there, is all but certain in the House given the massive majority the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies enjoy there.

The bill was cleared by the Union cabinet on Wednesday.

The Union government is also confident of its passage in Rajya Sabha with the support of several non-aligned regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which have often joined the treasury benches in the past, despite vehement opposition by the Congress and strident anti-BJP parties like the All India Trinamool Congress, which have been claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion.

The government on Thursday informed leaders of different parties at the Business Advisory Committee that it will put the bill for discussion in Lower House on Tuesday, official sources said.

The Congress, which has termed the bill "divisive" and discriminatory, made it clear on Thursday that it will oppose the draft legislation in Parliament.

 

Making the party's stand clear, its leader Rahul Gandhi said in Kerala that the Congress is against "any form of discrimination against anybody in this country".

"So anybody who discriminates against anybody who is Indian, we are against them...That is our line. We believe that India belongs to everybody -- all communities, all religions, all cultures," Gandhi told reporters.

In Lucknow, Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati described the bill as unconstitutional, and demanded that it be sent to a parliamentary committee for review.

"The Citizenship Amendment Bill cleared by the central cabinet is both unconstitutional and divisive. Citizenship in the name of religion and discrimination in the name of religion of the citizens through it is totally against the basic structure of the humanitarian and secular Constitution of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar," Mayawati told reporters.

"Instead of forcing this bill, like demonetisation and GST, the central government should review it," she said.

Opposition parties like the DMP and Trinamool Congress are also opposed to it.

The stand of Shiv Sena, a longtime Hindutva ally of the BJP which is now in the opposition camp, will be keenly observed by political watchers as it has been a strong votary of the bill but may now be forced to change its stand due to alliance with the Congress.

Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was a commitment given by the party to the persecuted minorities from Afghanistan-Pakistan-Bangladesh and hit out at the "bleeding hearts" who were complaining about the bill.

"It was passed by the last Lok Sabha but couldn't reach Rajya Sabha and lapsed. A revised bill is coming. Upholding India's tradition to shelter the persecuted in the neighbourhood," he tweeted.

"For all others about whom the bleeding hearts' are complaining, Indian citizenship laws are there. Naturalized citizenship is an option for others who legally claim Indian citizenship. All other illegals will be infiltrators. No country in the world accepts illegal migrants," he said.

Meanwhile, twelve opposition parties, including the Congress, the TMC and the Left, held a meeting on Thursday and decided on an eight-point agenda to counter the BJP on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The meeting of senior Rajya Sabha members of opposition parties such as the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, CPI and CPI(M), was held in Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad's chamber.

The leaders met twice during the day to firm up the opposition strategy on the bill, they said.

The eight-point agenda, that the opposition parties will put before the people in the next five days, states that the bill is against everything the country's founding fathers envisioned and it lays down multiple grounds for citizenship for one country, sources said.

"The bill uses the Sixth Schedule and Inner Line Permit to set different grounds for citizenship. Just four months ago the government talked about one nation, one tax, one election, one law," a source said elaborating on the eight points the opposition parties agreed upon.

They also agreed that the bill is anti-tribal, the National Register of Citizens and CAB are not separate but hyphenated, the NRC was botched up in Assam, the government should not distract from the "mess" the economy is in, and the entire opposition will get its MPs, MLAs, councillors to spread this narrative against the bill in their areas, sources said.

TMC leader Derek O'Brien, who was present at the meeting, said NRC was a trap and so is CAB.

"This is not about Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha numbers, but about preserving the very heart and soul of country and what our founding fathers stood for. Opposition parties have all agreed that over the next five days we will expose the complete falsehood of the BJP on CAB. Mamata Banerjee has rejected NRC in West Bengal and more states will follow," O'Brien said.

"NRC and CAB are two sides of the same coin and the opposition is united against it," said CPI's D Raja, who was not present in the meeting, but two members of his party were there.

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