Cabinet okays Citizenship Bill, set to be tabled in RS

New Delhi: The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which has led to a huge furore across the entire Northeast, was on Wednesday approved by the Union Cabinet, despite the differences among chief ministers and civil society groups of states in the region, with whom home minister Amit Shah had held parleys till the early hours of Wednesday.

There is a likelihood that the bill could be introduced in the Lok Sabha on either December 9 or 10.

Mr Shah’s meeting with leaders of the northeastern states (including present and former chief ministers) to discuss various aspects of the controversial bill had begun at 8 pm on Tuesday and continued late till 2 am on Wednesday.

Though the bill was to be cleared at the Cabinet meeting on December 4 (where it was ultimately cleared), but due to the delayed parleys, sources had indicated a second meeting of the Union Cab-inet may be held on December 5 to get the bill cleared. However, the bill was given formal approval at the Cabinet meeting held early on Wednesday.

The CAB, which aims to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, has been attacked by several Opposition parties as communal and divisive, with the Congress threatening to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the proposed legislation.

At a briefing after the Cabinet meeting, environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar said that the government had taken care of the interests of all sides and “the interest of India”. He added, when asked about the protests erupting in the Northeast: “People will welcome it as it is in the interests of the nation.”

During his meetings, Mr Shah assured them that the states where the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime exists, and those regions which are governed will be excluded from the purview of the bill.

In terms of Section 2 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations 1873, the Inner Line Permit system is in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. Citizens of other states require an ILP to visit these states.

Under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, autonomous councils and districts were created in the tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. The autonomous councils and districts enjoy certain executive and legislative powers.

The Congress, Trinamul, CPM and a few other political parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill, claiming that citizenship cannot be granted on the basis of religion.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said it violates the basic idea of India, that religion can never be a reason for citizenship.

“Believing that religion should determine nationhood was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of the nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maulana Azad, Dr Ambedkar have said, that religion cannot determine nationhood,” Mr Tharoor told reporters at Parliament House.

Veteran Congress leader and three-time Assam CM Tarun Gogoi said that the Congress Party will move the Supreme Court against the CAB, which he said was “unconstitutional” and “divisive.”

Mr Gogoi said in a tweet: “The Congress will move the SC because we believe that CAB is unconstitutional and against the spirit of secularism. It is divisive, and violates the constitutional provision — equality for all. There cannot be division on the basis of religion, caste or
creed.”

The All India United Democratic Front has written a letter to Mr Shah requesting him not to introduce the CAB in Parliament as it is “against the interests of the people of Assam and the country.”

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