CAB set for second coming in Parliament

Union cabinet gives nod; Sixth Schedule,
ILP regime areas out of purview

NEW DELHI: Despite protests against it across North East, the Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which will be introduced in Parliament on Monday, but with exemption to areas under the Sixth Schedule and those where inner line permit is applicable.
“Everybody including those from North East will be happy with the bill which will be tabled in Parliament,” the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javedkar, said during the media briefing on the cabinet decision. He, however, refused to give new details since Parliament is in session.
The government is committed to protect the interest of the North East, Javedkar said adding that the BJP-led NDA has given maximum importance to the region. Constitutional safeguard, as promised in Assam accord, to protect and preserve the culture of the Assamese people is among the issues under the Centre’s consideration.
There is also a suggestion to expand the scope of the inner line permit (ILP) by using provisions under section 3(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1961. This allows the Centre to declare any area adjoining the frontiers of India to be a notified area in ‘the interest of the safety or security of India’, sources said.
The bill seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, if they have faced religious persecution there.
The bill in its current form is being strongly opposed by political parties and civil rights groups in the region. This had forced the BJP to exempt the Sixth Schedule areas and those governed by ILP.
Critics have called the proposed law anti-Muslim, and some opposition parties have argued citizenship cannot be granted on the basis of religion.
In the North East student and civil society groups said they were still opposed to the law, fearing that tens of thousands of Hindu migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh would gain citizenship.
Many also feel that once a foreigner is given citizenship he or she can move to any part of the country, including the North East. These so called exemptions to some areas will not work practically, they added.
When contacted, most of the BJP MPs from the region welcomed the cabinet’s approval to CAB with possible relaxations.
The cabinet approval to the bill came hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah completed his three days of interactions with leaders of political parties, student bodies and civil society members from the Northeastern states to assuage their concerns.
Shah held his last meeting with these groups in the early hours of Wednesday.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI-M and a few other political parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill, claiming that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion.
The Congress on Wednesday said it will decide on its stand after seeing in what form the bill is introduced in Parliament.
“We will have to see in what form, manner the Citizenship Bill is brought, then we will decide on our stand. We get to know from the media, the changes they are bringing. But we will have to see the bill and see what changes have been made,” Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said at a press conference here.
Veteran Congress leader and three-time Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the Congress will move the Supreme Court against the CAB which is “unconstitutional” and “divisive”.
The draft legislation is expected to sail through Lok Sabha, where the BJP has a majority, and is unlikely to face serious hurdles in Rajya Sabha as the ruling party has often managed the support of parties like the BJD, TRS and YSR Congress for its flagship agenda.
The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s approval. But it did not introduce it in the Rajya Sabha, apparently due to vehement protests in the North East. The bill lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha. (With PTI inputs)

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