Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 [highlights]

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 08-01-2019. The Bill seeks to facilitate acquisition of citizenship by 6 identified minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 31-12-2014.

Highlights :

  • The Act is not confined to the State of Assam, and will be applicable to all States and Union Territories of the country.
  • The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country.
  • The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country.
  • Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden and Government of India is committed to give all help to the State Government and people of Assam.
  • The Act will provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other States.

Migrants from these communities were earlier given protection against legal action in years 2015 & 2016. Long term visa provision was made for them. The proposed amendment will make these persecuted migrants eligible to apply for citizenship.  Citizenship will be given to them only after due scrutiny and recommendation of district authorities and the State Government. The minimum residency period for citizenship is being reduced from existing 12 years under the present law to 7 years.

The present Government has taken several measures to implement the Assam Accord. An important pillar of Assam Accord is Clause 6 dealing with constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for protection of cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.  MHA has notified on 05-01-2019, a High Level Committee consisting of eminent and knowledgeable persons from Assamese society with a very wide mandate to suggest such safeguards for protection of the Assamese identity, including reservation in the State Assembly and in jobs. The Committee will submit its report within 6 months.

Government has given approval to move the Bill in parliament granting ST status to 6 communities of Assam namely Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak. Government has waived the requirement of Cabinet approval.

At the same time, full safeguards will be provided to protect the interests, rights & privileges of existing Scheduled Tribes of Assam.  A separate Bill will be brought to grant ST status to Bodo Kacharis in Hill districts of Assam and Karbis in the rest of Assam. Schedule VI of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the Autonomous District Councils.

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