With the commencement of the Winter Parliament session, several political issues are returning to the spotlight. These include several bills to be considered in the Rajya Sabha, including the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Amendments To Citizenship Rules
The bill was introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha in the previous session. It aims to ease citizenship for six non-muslim migrant communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, on the grounds of religious persecution.
These six communities include Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Christian, and Buddhist refugees. The requirement for citizenship eligibility will also be reduced to six years from the previous 11.
This comes soon after the NRC (National Registration of Citizenship) listing in Assam, which excluded almost 19.6 lakh names. Authorities are still working on correcting the several citizens allegedly left out of the final register. However, it has been proposed to introduce the NRC to West Bengal as well; not without vehement opposition, of course.
Causes of Concern For the People
Several north-eastern communities, organisations, and parties believe that these Citizenship amendments will hurt the ethnic groups in the region.
“This is a communal bill and threatens the existence of the indigenous peoples of Assam and elsewhere in the northeast,” says Bhattacharyya. He plays advisor to the All Assam Students' Union.
The debate around housing immigrant refugees and its impact upon local communities has been a constant hot topic. Changes in American policies under Trump to Indian implementations under the BJP government have kept the discussion alive.
With the Act, the definition of immigrants will change directly and affect the demography of Assam and the entire region,” Bhattacharya adds.
All Hindus who migrated from Bangladesh would have another chance at Indian citizenship via the Bill. However, the same isn’t true for Muslims who entered Assam the same time and are excluded from the final NRC, according to Akhil Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti.
Along with local parties such as the TMC and SP there are several student groups and organisations against the amendments. Opposers of the bill accuse the BJP of attempting to increase their vote bank in the north-east.