January 19, 2019
Kazi Jamal Hassan
Indian government is taking all out preparations for pushing over four million Bangla-speaking Muslims into Bangladesh from March this year. Meanwhile, taking note of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha, the Supreme Court on January 14, 2019 adjourned the hearing of a PIL which challenges the orders issued by the Central Government making way to grant of citizenship to illegal migrants.
According to the Wire, for nearly a week now, there have been massive public protests across Assam against the Centre’s decision to push for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in parliament. The Bill extends – on religious lines – the cut-off date for “illegal immigrants” in the state to acquire Indian citizenship from March 24, 1971 to December 30, 2014.
It was passed in the Lok Sabha in the recent session and is awaiting the Rajya Sabha’s nod.
The 1971 date, exclusive to Assam, was appended to the Citizenship Act, 1955, under Clause 6A. This was agreed to in the Assam Accord, which put a lid on the six-year-long anti-foreigner agitation in 1985. Though the Supreme Court is yet to decide the very validity of Clause 6A, the bill amends its key provision.
By extending the cutoff date to 2014, the Modi government is segregating undocumented immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh into Hindus and Muslims. If the Bill becomes law, Hindus from that country living without the correct documentation not just in Assam but in the rest of the country too would be given preferential treatment by bringing in a new citizenship cut-off date – December 31, 2014. This date would go against the Assam Accord, which doesn’t differentiate between undocumented immigrants living in Assam on the basis of religion. This has been the trigger for the protests.
Besides Bangladesh, the Bill also aims to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan and Afghanistan if they are victims of ‘religious persecution’.