Parliamentary panel meet on Citizenship Bill inconclusive

A meeting of the Joint Committee of Parliament to examine the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 remained inconclusive on Tuesday as the Congress and other opposition parties sought to keep Bangladesh out of the purview of the bill and “delink” it from religion.

“The entire issue is because of Bangladesh. If we delete the word the emotional part of that issue and violence that is taking place can be reduced,” a member of the committee told the media.

A furore ensued in the meeting and discussion could not take place as members gave their amendments seeking review of the provisions by the government and withdrawal of the bill in its present state, which was opposed by some of the ruling party members, the sources said.

One of the members suggested “delinking” the bill from religion and to ‘uphold the constitutional value’.

“This Bill violates the provisions of the Assam Accord. Also there is a question of constitutionality of the bill as it differentiates between religions. People of a particular religion will be given citizenship while others will be denied,” the member told the committee.

The opposition members also alleged that BJP members were trying to finalise the report in a “hasty” manner without due consultation.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Among others, the amendment bill seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don’t possess any proper document.

A large section of people, organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

The committee has already taken six extensions from the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. It has sought time for the presentation of the report on the “first day of the last week of the Winter Session, 2018”.

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