TARGET BENGAL AND ASSAM … Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by Parliament; BJP has its way; Sena runs for cover

NEW DELHI: Parliament Wednesday gave passage to the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) tabled in both houses by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The bill will now go to Rashtrapati Bhavan for presidential assent to turn it into law. As per the provisions of the bill, the government will have freedom to grant citizenship to refugees/migrants from other countries, but Muslims from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will not be benefited, and will be put in detention camps and eventually deported back to their countries.

The bill was first passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this week, and in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday evening, after a heated debate. The main Opposition, the Congress party as also the Left, the Trinamool Congress etc opposed the bill.

In fact, the bill was passed this week by the Lok Sabha for a second time; after the previous Modi government got it passed but failed to get it through in the upper house. This time, the government managed to cobble a majority in the upper house too with support from some non-NDA parties as well. 

The Shiv Sena, a former NDA partner and now allied with the UPA by forming a government in Maharashtra, however did not participate in the vote. It was a strong supporter of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, but political compulsions forced it to keep off the voting, so as to save the CM post in Maharashtra. The BJP, meanwhile, made sure that the bill will be passed this time in the Rajya Sabha too.

The bill principally aims to provide citizenship right to some five lakh Hindu refugees from Bangladesh now settled in Assam and some other north-east states. They had been excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) listing a while ago, done under Supreme Court supervision, and their fate hanged in balance in the interim period.

Also, the BJP seems to hope the NRC and CAB exercises would be of help to it in West Bengal state. Large numbers of Muslim refugees made an exodus to West Bengal during the critical 1970s – when civil strife and the Mukti Bahini independence movement led to massive repressions and torture from the Pakistani military there, in what was then East Pakistan. 

The porus borders allowed more and more people to cross over to India for jobs and better life in the subsequent decades too. However, with the finding of oil wealth and political stability under Shaikh Hasina, Bangladesh is growing faster than India today. The refugees who came and settled down in India since the 1970s are part of the vote banks of the Trinamool Congress in recent years. Earlier, they were vote banks for the CPIM. The BJP, through the NRC, plans to roll back the Muslim migrants to Bangladesh, which will also be a political hit on the ruling Trinamool Congress. Under the CAB, it can grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Jain migrants across the country.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says she would oppose the NRC tooth and nail. The amendments put forward by the Trinamool MPs in Rajya Sabha, to the CAB, were all voted out on Wednesday before the bill was passed. The CPIM was among those which opposed the bill in Parliament. IHN-NN

TARGET BENGAL AND ASSAM … Citizen Amendment Bill passed by Parliament; BJP has its way; Sena runs for cover

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