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Citizenship (Amendment) Bill may benefit ‘declared foreigners’

Not in favour: People participating in a procession to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati, Assam, on Thursday.

Not in favour: People participating in a procession to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati, Assam, on Thursday.  

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It could help non-Muslims, who were declared illegal migrants by various Foreigners Tribunals in Assam.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that will be introduced in Parliament on December 9 is also likely to benefit the non-Muslims who were declared illegal migrants by various Foreigners Tribunals in Assam.

As per government data, from the year 1985 till February 28 this year, as many as 63,959 persons were declared foreigners through ex parte (one sided) proceedings by FTs in Assam. The FTs, quasi-judicial bodies unique to Assam, came up in 1985.

The redrafted Bill has a provision to abate “any proceedings pending against a person under this section in respect of illegal migration or citizenship before any authority including Foreigners Tribunals, courts etc.”

The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.

As on November 22, 988 foreigners were lodged in six detention centres in Assam, the Bill could benefit the non-Muslim foreigners.

 

The Bill, first introduced in 2016 was examined by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which submitted its report in January this year. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but it lapsed as it could not be cleared in the Rajya Sabha. After the new Lok Sabha was constituted post general elections in May, the Bill in its new form is all set to be introduced next week.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) while responding to a JPC query on the number of persons belonging to minority communities who would benefit from the proposed Amendment had said that 31,313 persons belonging to minority communities would be the immediate beneficiaries.

The IB said there were 25,447 Hindus, 5807 Sikhs, 55 Christians, 2 Buddhists and 2 Parsis who have been given Long Term Visa (LTV) on the basis of their “claim of religious persecution in their respective countries and want Indian Citizenship.” LTVs are a precursor to citizenship and the visa facility was first introduced in 2011 for persecuted Hindus from Pakistan. The LTVs granted to Pakistani Hindus from 2011-2014 stood at 14,726.

The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) told the JPC that “agencies who are inimical to us should not have a legal framework within which they can exploit our situation and infiltrate their own people into our own country. That is a matter of great concern for us...”

As reported on Thursday, the Bill will also immediately benefit all the non-Muslim people out of the over 19 lakh people who were excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31.

Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma had told the Hindu last week that after the Citizenship Amendment Bill is cleared by the Parliament, there will be a fresh legislation for preparing a pan-India NRC with a uniform cut off date. The cut off date is important as all those who migrated before the specified date would be legal citizens of the country. As per Article 6 of the Constitution the cut-off date for migration to India from Pakistan is July 19, 1948 whereas in Assam, that borders Bangladesh, it is March 24, 1971. The Citizenship Bill will however provide immunity to illegal Hindus (who came from neighbouring countries and do not have valid documents) excluded from NRC

as it seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, Jain and Sikh communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 7:03:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/citizenship-amendment-bill-may-benefit-declared-foreigners/article30196956.ece

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