On the eve of a meeting of the Union Cabinet, which is likely to approve the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), Home Minister Amit Shah met politicians and organisations from the northeastern states on Tuesday to understand their concerns over the proposed law.
Apart from the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, the Cabinet is likely to clear the Personal Data Protection Bill and further amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act and the Companies Act. The Narendra Modi government hopes to ensure the passage of these Bills during the ongoing winter session of Parliament which concludes on December 13.
Shah held discussions with the representatives of students' bodies and civil society groups of Assam on the CAB. Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal, too, attended the meetings. It was the third such session held by Shah since Friday. Mizoram CM Zoramthanga also called on Shah.
The groups, including the All Assam Students Union, told Shah that they are apprehensive that the proposed law, if enacted, could affect the indigenous people of the northeast. There have been widespread protests in the northeastern states against the Bill. Government sources said the northeastern states could be kept out of the purview of the Bill.
The 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 because of religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan even if they do not possess proper documents.
A large section of people and organisations in the northeast have opposed the Bill, arguing that it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for genuine Indian citizens in Assam, irrespective of religion.
The Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a few other political parties have been steadfastly opposing the Bill, claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion. The Bill lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.
According to the previous Bill, those who came to India on or before December 31, 2014, will benefit from the proposed legislation after it becomes an Act. There is a possibility to make changes to the cut-off date, too, an official said.
The CAB will propose to amend the definition of illegal migrants, reduction in the number of years of residency period to obtain Indian citizenship through naturalisation and empower the Centre to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizen of India card in case of any violation.
The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, will seek “to ensure the protection of the personal data of citizens and the growth of the digital economy and to regulate all aspects of data and details; various obligations which will be required to be fulfilled wherever personal data is involved”. The Companies Amendment Bill will seek to “decriminalise” certain offences to “facilitate ease of doing business and ease of living”.