The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which is reported to have addressed the concerns of the north-eastern States by exempting areas under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and Sixth Schedule.
The Centre hopes to push the Bill in Parliament next week and the Treasury Benches are confident of having mustered a majority in Rajya Sabha.
The Bill is likely to be circulated on Thursday.
The Opposition, meanwhile, maintained that the Bill is anti-Constitutional that will stand the scrutiny of judiciary and said it will not allow the passage of a legislation that makes religion as the basic requirement for citizenship.
The Opposition parties are meeting on Thursday to devise a strategy to defeat the Bill.
A joint select committee of Parliament that considered the earlier form of the Bill, which lapsed during the last Lok Sabha, had approved the Centre’s proposal to specify the six minorities from other countries who will be eligible for citizenship.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs has apprised that to take care of the migrants who entered India due to persecution on account of race, religion, sex, nationality, ethnic identity, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been put in place since 2011. In view of above, the Committee is in agreement with the extant provision of specifying the six religious minorities in the proposed amendment,” the committee’s report said.
The Congress, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress and the BJD had objected to this report and wrote dissent notes against it.
‘Violates idea of nation’
The Congress said it has to see the new form of the Bill.
“I don’t know if the Centre has made some changes under pressure from the people representatives in north-eastern States,” said Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, while reiterating his party’s stand against the Bill.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor told reporters that the Bill violates the basic idea of India that religion can never be a reason for citizenship.
“Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood...that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maluana Azad, Dr Ambedkar have said, that religion cannot determine nationhood,” Tharoor said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Bill must be withdrawn. He told reporters that it violates the fundamentals of the Constitution.
“The preamble, citizenship provisions (Article 5 to 11) and the section on fundamental rights underline the fundamentals of equality regardless of gender, caste, religion, class, community or language. This Bill violates all of them. This Bill is not a mere change in the statute but is a law that will fundamentally alter the character of the Indian Republic,” he said, citing the dissent note wrote by former CPI(M) MP Mohd Salim.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that the Centre has taken care of the interests of everyone and “the interest of India”. “People will welcome it as it is in the interest of the nation,” he said.
The BJP has reached out to fence-sitters such as the BJD, TRS and the YSRCP to see that the Bill does not face hurdles in Rajya Sabha.
The AIADMK members have also been alerted. “We will stand with the Centre,” a senior AIADMK leader said.
Shiv Sena, apparently, is opposing the Bill.
The BJP has reached out to fence-sitters such as the BJD, TRS and the YSRCP to see to that the Bill does not face hurdles in Rajya Sabha