Union Cabinet Clears Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Set To Be Tabled In Parliament
Activists of Left Democratic Manch Assam stage a protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, in Guwahati, India (Source:PTI)

Union Cabinet Clears Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Set To Be Tabled In Parliament

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The Union Cabinet has cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.

A bill to amend the the Citizenship Act, 1955, is likely to be introduced in the Parliament in the next two days, sources told PTI.

The Citizenship Bill was amongst the six bills approved by the cabinet in today’s meeting.

The draft legislation is expected to sail through Lok Sabha, where the BJP has a big majority and is unlikely to face serious hurdles in Rajya Sabha as well as the ruling party has often managed the support of parties like the Biju Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and YSR Congress for its flagship agenda.

Top BJP leaders, including its president and Home Minister Amit Shah, have held extensive parleys with political parties and citizen groups from the Northeast to assuage their concerns by incorporating some of their major concerns to protect the local ethnic and tribal interests.

Opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said it undermines the fundamental tenets of the Constitution.

"I think the bill is fundamentally unconstitutional because the basic idea of India has been violated in the bill," Tharoor told reporters at the Parliament. "We have always argued that our idea of nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maulana Azad, Dr. Ambedkar have said, that religion cannot determine nationhood," Tharoor told reporters in Parliament premises.

"Ours is a country for everybody and everybody, irrespective of religion, has equal rights in this country, and the Constitution that they wrote reflected that. Today, this bill undermines this fundamental tenet of the Constitution," Tharoor said.

The Modi government had tabled the bill in Parliament in the last year of its previous term as well. Lok Sabha had passed it but it was blocked by Rajya Sabha. The government is believed to have effected certain changes in the previous version of the bill in its new avatar. Despite facing serious opposition, including from allies, the ruling BJP has expressed its determination time and again to the bill.

Senior party leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had on Tuesday asked BJP MPs to be present in large numbers in Parliament when the bill is tabled. This bill is as important as the move to nullify Article 370, he had said to underscore its ideological importance for the saffron party.

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