The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) sailed through Lok Sabha on Monday, and is all set to hit Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Many people, however, are outraged.
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The Indian Government’s official line is that the CAB is a bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees, who escaped religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. However, protestors across the nation — from Arunachal Pradesh to West Bengal, Delhi to Tripura — think that this has a far more nefarious purpose.
“The Citizenship Amendment Bill, according to the government, is rooted in humanitarian concerns: it will offer refuge to people fleeing religious persecution.
Yet these concerns are remarkably selective, restricted to Hindus, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Undocumented migrants from such communities will be eligible for citizenship under the new bill.
But Muslims, such as Shias and Ahmadis, facing religious persecution in these countries are pointedly left out. So are refugees from Myanmar, including thousands of Rohingya who fled ethnic cleansing, and Sri Lanka, where thousands of Tamil refugees were forced out by civil war.”
However, on the eve of the crucial vote in Rajya Sabha, parts of India are up in arms about the arbitrary nature of the bill, claiming that it singles out a certain community for persecution — an act that goes against the central tenets of secularism present in India’s constitution.
“Deserted roads, closed educational institutions and banks, markets and vehicles set on fire, huge processions raising slogans against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and clashes brought life in parts of Northeast to a grinding halt in wake of the 11-hour bandh call by North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of influential students’ bodies of the region.
With the contentious bill, which seeks to give citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, set to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Guwahati, Jorhat, Pathshala, Dibrugarh, Morigaon and Lakhimpur in Assam simmered with protests, even resulting in clashes between police and agitators.
In Tripura, two simultaneous protests by the Twipra Students Federation (TSF) and Joint Movement Against CAB, a platform of three indigenous political parties and tribal social organisations, virtually crippled public movement for most parts of Tuesday. In view of the vociferous protests, the state government shut down SMS and mobile internet services for the next 48 hours.”
So, what now?
The bill is all set to be tabled in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Though it sailed through the BJP-dominated Lok Sabha with more than 300, it’ll need outside support to win over the Upper House.
“In the Upper House, the NDA has 94 members and its floor managers will have to garner the support of at least 121 members to get the Bill passed. Given the BJP’s recent successes in managing numbers in the Rajya Sabha on important bills, it is unlikely that the Citizenship Bill will face any hurdles in the Upper House.
Sources in the BJP-led NDA said they were sure of getting near 124-130 votes in the Rajya Sabha which has an effective strength of 240 members.
The Opposition camp includes the Congress, TMC, BSP, Samajwadi Party, DMK, RJD, Left, NCP and the TRS.
The support of Shiv Sena, Aam Admi Party and some smaller parties may take (its count) near 110.”
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