While the entire northeastern region is up in arms over the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill, the Union Cabinet is likely to clear the contentious legislation at its meeting here on Wednesday. According to highly-placed sources, the Centre might introduce it in Rajya Sabha on December 10.
Sources in the know pointed out that with home minister Amit Shah holding regular discussions with key political leaders, students’ representatives and civil society members from the Northeast over the past few days, including a meeting which took place on Tuesday, there is a strong likelihood that the Bill could be cleared at the Cabinet meeting due to take place on December 4.
The proposed legislation is likely to be introduced by the government in the Upper House on December 10, the sources added. The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s approval. But it couldn’t pass in the Rajya Sabha due to the vehement protests in the Northeast region.
The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. Under the previous bill, those who came to India on or before December 31, 2014 will benefit from the law after it receives the President’s assent and is notified.
The new bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955, in order to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who came to India due to religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan even if they don’t have proper documents.
Mr Shah on Tuesday held discussions with members of students’ bodies and civil society groups of Assam on the proposed law. Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal was among those who attended the meeting.
The groups, including the influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), are learnt to have told the home minister of their concerns and how the proposed legislation could affect the indigenous people of the Northeast, sources said.
Last week the Home Minister assured a group of leaders and Chief Ministers from the Northeast that states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, which are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP), would be shielded from the impact of the proposed legislation.
In other words, those non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who don’t have valid documents, and who take up Indian citizenship under the new law, will not be allowed to settle in these areas and states.
A large section of people and a few organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord, that fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for the deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.