Please contact : Kumar Utkarsh
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) on Tuesday demanded immediate withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 claiming that it was unconstitutional as it seeks to grant Indian citizenship only on the basis of religion.
The demand came few days after the BJP’s ally Janata Dal United threw its weight behind protesters arguing that the proposed legislation would threaten the linguistic identity of Assam’s indigenous people.
The JDU said it would nullify the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is currently under way in Assam. The party added that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was against the Bill.
In May, the National People’s Party-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), which BJP is part of, had said that it would officially register its stand against the Bill.
The Centre is planning to change the definition of illegal migrants through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. It will make changes to the existing Citizenship Act 1955, to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi or Christian.
The Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, also seeks to reduce the number of continuous years of stay in India needed to obtain citizenship by naturalization from 11 to six years.
The Bill was referred to a joint select committee in August that year, after it was discussed in the lower house of parliament.
According to existing laws, an illegal immigrant is a person who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents or is a person who stays in the country beyond the valid visa permit.
BJP’s coalition partner Assam Gana Parishad has threatened to cut ties with the party if the Bill is passed. It considers the Bill to work against the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of the State. NGOs such as The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and students’ organization All Assam Students’ Union also have come forward opposing the Bill.
All Opposition parties, including the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front, have opposed the idea of granting citizenship to an individual on the basis of religion. It is also argued that the Bill, if made into an Act, will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC). The process of updating the NRC is currently underway in Assam.
States sharing borders with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are likely to be affected. The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, an ally of the BJP, has opposed the Bill. Calling the bill “dangerous,” the Meghalaya government said that they don’t agree with the idea of non-Muslims acquiring citizenship after six years of living in the country.
The Bill after been discussed in the Lok Sabha, was referred to a joint select committee in August 2016. The members of the Parliamentary Committee visited Barak Valley, the Bengali-majority area of Assam, and Meghalaya to discuss it with various organizations. They reportedly spoke to about 200 organizations.