The Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill amidst a vote of 311 in its favour and 80 against it out of 391 members who were present and voting.
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The next challenge for the union government will now be passage through Rajya Sabha where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is currently in minority and will be banking on support by like minded parties to push through the legislation.
The debate on 9th December saw 48 speakers in total cutting across party lines including several members from North East states. Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah in his response said that all members from North East have supported the Bill as all concerns of the region have been addressed by making suitable amendments in the Bill. “I want to assure that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh is protected by Inner Line Permit is protected, no one has any cause of worry. So is Mizoram and Nagaland. Manipur is not protected today but we will notify this bill only when Manipur gets it. We will take care of concerns of Tripura and Meghalaya as well,” Amit Shah said adding that Assam also has no cause of worry.
“Delighted that the Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a rich and extensive debate. I thank the various MPs and parties that supported the Bill. This Bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values,” Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter minutes after the Bill was passed.
“I would like to specially applaud Home Minister @AmitShah Ji for lucidly explaining all aspects of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. He also gave elaborate answers to the various points raised by respective MPs during the discussion in the Lok Sabha,” he said in another tweet.
“I want to assure everyone here that by no account this bill violates the Constitution or Article 14,” Amit Shah said while responding to the concerns raised by members of opposition parties in the due course of the day. “There is a difference between a refugee and an infiltrator, I assure you that after NRC comes into effect there will be no infiltrator in the country,” he added.
The bill aims to provide citizenship to those who had been forced to seek shelter in India because of religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries — Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Union Cabinet last week gave its go-ahead to the bill after Shah had met with various stakeholders and groups from the Northeast, where concerns over indigenous northeastern populations had been raised.
Earlier in the day, the discussion over the Bill led to a tussle between the BJP and opposition parties and led by Congress, who alleged that the Bill was against Muslims in India. Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the bill was nothing but legislation targeted at minorities of India.
The next test of the bill will be in Rajya Sabha where the NDA will require the support of at least 123 MPs in the 245-member house. The support of regional and like-minded parties will be crucial to get the bill passed in the upper house, where it is likely to be tabled in the coming days. On Monday, regional parties like Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) came out in support of it.