High drama as N-E groups meet Shah; bill likely in Lok Sabha on Dec. 10.
New Delhi: While the whole of the Northeast is up in arms over the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), the Centre, which was keen to bring the contentious law for clearance at the Union Cabinet meeting scheduled Wednesday, may now hold another meeting the next day — Thursday, December 5 — to get the legislation cleared.
The change in plan had to be made after home minister Amit Shah’s meeting with the chief ministers of all northeastern states and other civil rights groups, which had begun on Tuesday evening, and is likely to continue till the early hours Wednesday. High drama and tense scenes were seen at the meeting, which at the time of reporting, was going on at Assam Bhavan in New Delhi. Apparently, all northeastern states have threatened to stall the bill if there is no unanimity on its contentious aspects, sources said. Highly-placed sources said the Centre may introduce the bill in the Lok Sabha on December 10. The government was earlier planning to bring the bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Sources in the know said that with Mr Shah holding discussions with political leaders, students’ groups and civil society members from the Northeast over the past few days, including Tuesday’s meeting, there
is a strong likelihood that the bill (against which people are up in arms in several northeastern states and to which even the West Bengal government has clearly affirmed its opposition) could now be cleared at the second Union Cabinet meeting on December 5.
The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s nod, but could not pass muster the numbers in the Rajya Sabha, owing to vehement protests in the Northeast.
The bill had lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
Under the previous bill, those who came to India on or before December 31, 2014 will benefit from the proposed legislation after it is notified. The fresh bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 in order to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who come to India due to religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and
Afghanistan even if they don’t have proper papers.
At Tuesday’s meeting, that was attended among others by Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, Mr Shah was apprised by the groups, including the influential All Assam Students Union, of their concerns on the bill and how the proposed legislation could affect the indigenous people of the Northeast, sources said.
Last week, the home minister had assured a group of leaders and chief ministers from the Northeast that states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, which are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP), would be shielded from the impact of the proposed legislation.
In other words, those non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who don’t have valid documents, and who take up Indian
citizenship under the new legislation, will not be allowed to settle in these areas and states.
A large section of people and a few organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord, that fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for the deportation of all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion.