TODAY -

Rajya Sabha adjourned without Citizenship Amendment Bill being tabled
What to do now ?
- Part 1 -

Dr. Khomdon Lisam *

 Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 : Protest by Imas at Khwairamband Keithel :: 9th February 2019
Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 : Protest by Imas at Khwairamband Keithel on 9th February 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



What is Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 ?

The original Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 19 July 2016 by the Union Home Ministry and passed by the Lok Sabha on 8 January, 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian but not Muslims who fled from the three neighbouring countries from religious persecution and entered India before 31 December, 2014.

The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalization. The Bill covers all the States and Union Territories.

Dangers of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016

Many people described the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 as anti-secular, anti-constitutional, communal, anti-people, anti- North East and likely to change the demographic pattern of North East India reducing the indigenous people of North East to minority as happened in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tripura. It should be immediately withdrawn. People are asking a simple question:- "why do the Indian Government treat the North East as dumping ground for illegal migrants and refugees" .

Assam was forced to settle 2,5 lakh refugees from East Pakistan during 1947 to 1949

Assam had a very bad experience with massive influx of illegal migrants from East Pakistan ( now Bangladesh) when the Government of Assam under Gopinath Bordoloi, Chief Minister was forced by the Central Government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to settle 2,5 lakh refugees in Assam during 1947 to 1949 as reflected in the confidential letter dated 7th May, 1949 and Nehru's reply dated 18th May 1949. The same mindset of the National Leaders of India is still continuing till date.

At the time of partition, most of Sylhet district of Assam was transferred to East Pakistan and an estimated 10 million people of East Pakistan fled the country and took refuge in India particularly West Bengal and Indian North East region. As per report of the Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Department of the Government of West Bengal, the number of refugees from East Pakistan in 1971 was nearly 6 million (60 lakhs) and in 1981, the number was assessed at 8 million (80 lakhs). What will happen to Assam and other states of North East if half of the 8 million Hindus entered the North East in partial fulfillment of the objectives of the Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016.

What is NRC?

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is meant to identify a bona fide citizen. By the order of the Supreme Court of India, NRC is being currently updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals who might have entered the State illegally after the midnight of 24 March, 1971. The war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan started on 25 March, 1971 leading to birth of Bangladesh. The war ended on 16 December 1971 after West Pakistan surrendered.

The date of NRC was decided in the Assam Accord-1985, which was signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985 in presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The NRC was first published after the 1951 Census in the independent India when parts of Assam went to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The first draft of the updated list was concluded by 31 December, 2017.

Assam Accord-1885 fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for identification and expulsion of foreigners in the state.

The division bench of Supreme Court comprising of Ranjan Gogoi (then Justice) and Justice Rohinton Nariman is monitoring the National Register of Citizens (NRC) under the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules) 2003 to detect illegal immigrants on the basis of the Assam Accord-1885, which had fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for identification and expulsion of foreigners in the state.

Forty (40) lakh immigrants were found to be invalid citizens of Assam as on 30 July 2018

On 30 July 2018, the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam (India ) was released identifying 2,89,83,677 people as valid citizens of India.. Under the 30th July draft, a total of 3,29,91,384 applications were submitted. The draft accepted 2,89,83,677 people as Indian citizens and labelled more than 40 lakh people as invalid citizens (illegal residents) of Assam (India). They will not be deemed as citizens of India if there names aren't included in the final NRC.

Those people can appeal/object after 30 August, 2018, The news of 40 lakh people becoming invalid citizens of Assam go viral and created almost panic situation in all states of North East who are already facing population imbalance due to massive influx of migrant workers from mainland India. That is why the people of Assam and the North East States rise in unison to oppose against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016

What is the present status of the Bill ?

On 15 July, 2016, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill CAB)- 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, On 31 July- 2016, the Lok Sabha referred the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to the Joint Select Committee of Indian Parliament.The committee was given time till the first day of the last week of the Winter Session of Lok Sabha to submit its report. Generally, the Winter Session of Parliament begins in November. However, the First Day Of Winter Session of Lok Sabha was adjourned after obituary references to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Somnath Chatterjee and Union Minister Ananth Kumar.

The Winter Session of Parliament began on 11 December, 2018 and end on 8 January, 2019. The Joint Select Committee submitted its recommendations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB)- 2016 to the Lok Sabha on 7 January, 2019. Based on its recommendations a fresh bill was introduced and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 8 January, 2019. The Bill is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha and assented by the President of India.

On 12 February, 2019, Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister was planning to table the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill -2016, which seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the Rajya Sabha amid protests in the Northeast. The bill was already cleared by the Lok Sabha on 8 January, 2019 and if cleared in Rajya Sabha, it will become a law. The Bill was listed for the 12 February , 2019 but the Bill was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha as uproar continued over Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav's episode at Lucknow airport.

The Bill was again listed for the 13 February , 2019 amid massive protests in all North East states. But the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die on 13 February, 2019 without taking up the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 for discussion and passage in the house and without setting a later date for convening after it passed a few bills without a debate, including the Interim Budget and Finance Bill for 2019

The Central Government may take Ordinance route to implement proposed amendments

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die on 13 February, 2019 without taking up the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill- 2016 for discussion and passage in the house and without fixing a later date. However, with the adjournment of the Rajya Sabha without discussing it, the Bill has practically lapsed . Constitutional expert P.D.T. Achary explains, "If a Bill is passed by the Lok Sabha and not by the Rajya Sabha, naturally it has lapsed."The Bill will now have to be reintroduced in the new Lok Sabha.

But the lapse of a Bill in Parliament doesn't prevent the incumbent government from issuing an ordinance to bring forth the amendment it intended to through the Bill. An ordinance can be brought under two conditions. One, when the house is not in session. Two, when there is an urgency and the President is convinced of it." Legally, an ordinance is the equivalent of an Act; but is not passed by the legislature. It is a temporary law till its expiry or till it is repealed or till it is approved by the legislature (after which it becomes an Act). The life of an ordinance is six months.

What is the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015 ?

The Government of India already issued the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015 vide GOI Order no.G.S.R.686(E).-ln dated 7th September, to exempt persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before the 31st December, 2014.

With this order, we can safely conclude that the Government of India is already implementing the Citizens Amendment Bill-2016 in some form or the other.

To be continued ....


* Dr. Khomdon Lisam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer was Former Medical Superintendent, JNIMS, Ex-Consultant, NACO & Ex-Project Director (MACS)
The writer may be contacted at khomdon(DOT)lisam(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 22 2019.



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