Amid widespread protests in NE states, Citizenship bill to be tabled in Rajya Sabha today

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to move the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, more than a month after it was passed by the Lok Sabha. The move comes as protests continue across states in the northeast and amid opposition from even BJP chief ministers.

The government is making one last effort to push this Bill, which seeks to provide citizenship to six minority groups from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh,through the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. It is penultimate day of last parliament session before the Lok Sabha elections. But it is likely to be met with protests by the opposition.

Widespread protests have engulfed states in the northeast after the government passed the Bill, which seeks to provide Indian nationality to non-Muslims who migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, in the Lok Sabha during the winter session on January 8.

Section 144 has been imposed in Imphal and all internet services were suspended on Monday night, as massive protests jolt the state capital.

On Sunday, at least six women were injured when police fired tear gas shells at a group of people who had gathered to protest against the bill in Imphal. The violent protests against the Bill continued on Monday and the police used tear gas to dispel the agitators. 

The government has gone ahead with the bill despite its ally in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad, pulling out of the NDA in protest and several others threatening to do so. On Monday too, chief ministers of two northeast states, Arunachal Pradesh’s Pema Khandu and Manipur’s N Biren Dingh, voicing their opposition to it to Singh on Monday.

Political parties have been protesting on the grounds that the bill seeks to grant nationality to non-Muslims who have come up to December 31, 2014, thereby, increasing the deadline from 1971 as per the Assam Accord of 1985.

Also, according to the Assam Accord, all illegal immigrants who have come after 1971, irrespective of their religion, have to be deported and this bill violates that.

Illegal migration is a sensitive issue in the northeast, where tribals and other ethnic communities wish to keep out the outsiders. The Bill has rekindled an old fear among the indigenous Assamese people that their cultural identity would be diluted if Bengali speaking outsiders are given legal sanction to settle in their state.

All of this is being played out at a time when the saffron party is hoping to make big electoral gains in West Bengal. Its aim is to use the Bill to consolidate the Hindu vote in its favour in this Eastern state as the party seeks to improve its vote share and tally in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the bill is an “atonement of the wrong that was done during India’s Partition. India will safeguard all who had been victims of the Partition”.

On Saturday, addressing a rally in Assam, Modi said the citizenship bill won’t harm the interests of the people of the region but will provide succour to those who have “embraced the idea and ethos of Mother India”.