The first session of Parliament after Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power in 2019 was considered to be the most productive one since independence.

It was during this period that landmark decisions on Article 370 and the clearance of the Triple Talaq Bill took place.

Also read: From Pakistan to Italy, NIA unearths transnational conspiracy in killing of RSS leader Brig (Retd) Gagneja

With the Winter Session of Parliament commencing today, all eyes would be on the crucial Citizenship Amendment Bill. The bill is aimed at giving citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Parliament has been informed about this Bill and it features in the list of 35 Bills that the Parliamentary Affairs ministry sent to the legislative branch of the Lok Sabha.

Righting a wrong:

In a nutshell the Bill would mandate that non-Muslims who cross over the border to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan would not be treated as illegal immigrants. This despite them entering the country without valid documents or with travel papers that have expired. The Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians would not face decoration under the Passport (Entry into India) Act and the Foreigners Act.

The Opposition led by the Congress is all set to oppose the Bill. However, the government is firm on its introduction. The government maintains that the Bill would grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim majority foreign countries. It is about righting the wrongs of history by granting refuge to the sons and daughters of Ma Bharti, who were stranded due to partition.

There are so many who had been stranded due to partition. There are many Hindus who came from Pakistan after 1947 but live like refugees with no rights. There were 34% Hindus in Bangladesh. The number is now 12%. The rest have come to India and are living without any rights says former special secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing, Amar Bhushan.

He asks, “Tell me one place in the world where the Hindus can go?” If the jews are bashed in France, Germany or Argentina, where do they go? You must have land somewhere, where you can identify yourself. Which is the land for Hindus? That is India and we must provide all these people their rights as they would always been treated as expatriates in other countries, Bhushan also says.

If persons who are minorities are persecuted in Muslim majority countries like Pakistan, where are they supposed to go? If the Christians are persecuted, they go to the US, where they are accepted and are made to feel at home. The Citizenship Amendment Bill address this concern and hence it is a must that it is brought about, he also points out.

The Hindus who came to India after 1947 live as refugees. We cannot say that we have no responsibility towards them. Muslims have majority countries to go to where they will be accepted. What about the rest and what I hear is that there are nearly 5 to 6 lakh Hindus who came from Bangladesh and are living as refugees in Bengal, Amar Bhushan says.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill:

The Citizenship Act of 1955 says that one of the requirements for the citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous years.

The amendment relaxes the condition from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for the applicants belonging to the above-mentioned communities. The 1955 Act says a person who is born in India or has Indian parentage or has resided in India over a specified period of time is eligible for Indian citizenship.

Further, it says that those who enter the country without valid documents is not eligible for Indian citizenship. However, in 2016, the government exempted the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It was said that this exemption for those who reached India on or before December 31, 2014.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, but did not clear the Rajya Sabha test, owing to protests. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die on February 13, 2019, following which the elections were held. For the Bill to become a law, it would have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament.

While many have criticised the Bill, stating that it violates the basic structure of the Constitution, Union home minister Amit Shah has been vocal about reviving the Bill. He had said that the government would re-introduce the Bill before going ahead with a nation-wide NRC.

In the recently concluded NRC at Assam, a large number of Hindus and others from the local communities were left out. RSS leaders have also said that they would move the Supreme Court demanding a 20% sample verification of the draft NRC in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the other districts. Those left out after the tribunal’s verdict can be covered in the Citizenship Bill, some RSS leaders also said.