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TIMES OF INDIA EDIT-Don’t Unleash Chaos

December 09, 2019 06:24 AM

Citizenship Amendment Bill not only excludes Muslims but creates other complications
As government introduces the flawed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, it can expect stormy weather both inside and outside the House. Opposition parties such as Congress, TMC, SP, NCP, DMK and CPM will coordinate their position to oppose the bill. This will include highlighting how the CAB undermines the constitutional principle of secularism in granting citizenship to only non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. If the opposition is able to wean away secular NDA allies like JD(U) and AIADMK, it could put up a tough fight in the Rajya Sabha.

Government is also expected to see stiff resistance against the bill in north-east states, particularly Assam. The CAB’s cut-off date of December 31, 2014 for regularising migrants directly contradicts the 1985 Assam Accord, which had stipulated March 24, 1971 as the cut-off. The All Assam Students Union which had spearheaded the Assam Agitation from 1979-85 is already mulling approaching the Supreme Court against the bill, and plans to intensify the anti-CAB movement across the region with other north-east bodies. Even BJP’s Assam ally AGP is demanding that certain safeguards are enacted for the state before CAB is tabled. This includes an Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for Assam, restricting entry of visitors to these states.

Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has said those who get citizenship under CAB will not get residency rights or be allowed to own land and run businesses in the exempted areas unless given permission by the state governments. But if ILP is introduced for Assam, lakhs of people who have been residing, owning land and doing business in the state for decades, and will get regularised under CAB, will be left without rights. After all, the recent NRC exercise in Assam excluded around 12 lakh Hindus and Hindu Bengalis.

Besides, ILP for Assam will be a death knell for the state’s development and India’s Act East policy. Businesses and foreign investments can’t be expected to flourish under such restrictions. It’s ironic that BJP scrapped special status for Jammu & Kashmir on the ground that it would aid that state’s development. Thus, CAB creates grounds for disaffection in Kashmir as well. The silver lining in this cloud is it’s unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge if it comes up before the SC, as it violates Article 14 which guarantees equality before the law, as well as Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion.


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