Opposition to reach out to people about ‘pitfalls’ of Citizenship Amendment Bill

Opposition parties, at the end of two rounds of meeting on Thursday, conceded that they do not have the numbers to counter the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in either House of Parliament, but decided that over the next four days till the legislation is tabled in Parliament, they will run an information campaign calling out on the Bill as “unconstitutional”, “poisonous” and “anti-tribal”.

Meanwhile, in a first concrete statement from the Congress, its former president Rahul Gandhi told reporters in Kozhikode that they would oppose the Bill, which is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The Bill aims to ease the process of acquiring Indian citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It explicitly omits Muslims. “The Congress party is against any form of discrimination against anybody in this country. So anybody who discriminates against anybody who is Indian, we are against them. That is our line. We believe that India belongs to everybody — all communities, all religions, all cultures,” he said.

Twelve Opposition parties, barring the Shiv Sena that recently walked out of the NDA, met at 10 a.m. and then again at 12.30 p.m. at leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad’s room in Parliament. It was attended by AAP’s Sanjay Singh, Samajwadi Party’s Javed Ali Khan, CPI(M)’s T.K. Rangarajan, CPI’s Binoy Vishwam, NCP’s Praful Patel and Vandana Chavan, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and RJD’s Manoj Jha, among others. The BSP didn’t attend the meeting but its chief Mayawati has said that the party will oppose the Bill.

Three-pronged strategy

The Opposition agreed on three things: one, it will reach out to people and talk about the “pitfalls” of the Bill and stall Home Minister Amit Shah’s and the government’s efforts to dehyphenate the CAB and the National Register of Citizens; second, it will draft uniform amendments to the Bill; and the third one was floor strategy.

Sources said that while Mr. Azad and SP leader Javed Ali Khan emphatically favoured voting against the legislation, others like those from the Trinamool appeared reluctant.

The Opposition is arguing that the Bill is a “step back” for the tribal rights “under the guise of protection”. Its new version says that the provisions will not be extended to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. The States with inner line permit will also be protected. In the Assam NRC, as per some estimates, one lakh Gorkhas have been excluded from the final register. Once an indigenous person is excluded from the areas under the sixth schedule or inner line permit under the Bill, citizenship will not be extended to him or her as per the new provisions. “What provisions would then apply to such excluded persons,” Trinamool floor leader Derek O’ Brien asked.

The CAB, he said, was “anti-Hindu and anti-Tribals”. “Four months ago, the government, while bringing in legislation to nullify Article 370 in Kashmir, said that there can’t be different rules for different part of India. Certain areas of the country will not come under the CAB's permit. They are political stunt masters who change their stance regularly,” he added.

The Opposition is planning to argue that the confusion and chaos that the NRC created will be replicated with the CAB. “The CAB is an effort to cover up the mess created by the NRC. During the NRC exercise in Assam, scores of Hindus from U.P. and Bihar were excluded. They want to bring in the CAB before extending the NRC across the country. The end result would be that people from U.P. and Bihar who have been settled for long in different States will be thrown out,” AAP Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 8:07:58 PM |

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