Citizenship to non-Muslim refugees: Indian cabinet okays bill | The Daily Star
01:04 PM, December 04, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:06 PM, December 04, 2019

Citizenship to non-Muslim refugees: Indian cabinet okays bill

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

The bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, was approved by the cabinet at its meeting here this morning and is likely to be introduced in the current winter session of parliament in the next two days, our New Delhi correspondent reports quoting a source.

Defence Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajnath Singh spoke at the BJP parliamentary meeting yesterday when he rejected the opposition’s criticism that the Citizenship Amendment Bill runs counter to the principle of secularism and said India wants to give citizenship to those who face religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.

Singh also asked the BJP lawmakers to be present in strength in parliament when Home Minister Amit Shah tables the Bill and said the legislation is as important as the move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The CAB is expected to trigger a face-off between the government and the opposition parties.

As part of preparations for tabling the Bill, Shah had held a series of meetings with Chief Ministers of all the north eastern states, students outfits and civil society groups in the region where there is strong opposition to the Bill in its present form.

Shah is understood to be considering certain changes in the Bill in the light of his meetings with the various stakeholders from the North East to make the proposed law acceptable to the cross-section of people of the region.

Using the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the BJP hopes to counter the perception of fear about the National Register of Citizens which in Assam excluded 19.6 lakh people including a large number of Hindus.

The Bill is the first step towards ushering in pan-India NRC and Shah has repeatedly said that NRC would be conducted throughout India and repeated in Assam but before that the Citizenship Amendment Bill would be tabled to  give citizenship to Hindu, Parsi, Jain, Christian, Buddhist and Sikh refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

The Bill has stoked a controversy for leaving out Muslims.

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