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LS passes citizenship bill as NE vents anger

Burden of migrants will be shared by the whole country: Rajnath

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill seeking to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan even as the North East rose as one to protest against it with a bandh that shut down the region amidst incidents of violence.
Piloting the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Opposition that the bill was not against the provisions of the Constitution and would give succour to persecuted minorities in the three neighbouring countries.
The Bill provides for according Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India before December 31, 2014, after six years of residence instead of 12 years currently even if they do not possess any document.
“They have no place to go to, except India,” he said, adding several leaders including first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru were in favour of giving shelter to persecuted minorities in the neighbouring countries. He said although Indian leaders signed pacts with leaders of Pakistan and Bangladesh for protection of minorities but unfortunately it had not happened. Even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while speaking as leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha had asked the then BJP-led government to be more liberal in dealing with the issue of persecuted minorities in Bangladesh, the minister said.
Rejecting the contention that bill sought to discriminate people on the basis of religion, Singh said “anyone eligible under the provisions under the law will be accorded citizenship”. Seeking to assuage the concerns in the Northeast, Singh said the proposed law will not be confined to Assam alone.
“The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone should not have to bear the entire burden. Government of India is committed to give all help to the state government and people of Assam,” he said.
Singh said the migrants – Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis – were earlier given protection against legal action in 2015 and 2016. “Long term visa provision was made for them. The amendment will make these persecuted migrants eligible to apply for citizenship,” he said.
Singh said citizenship will be given to them only after due scrutiny and recommendation of district authorities and the state government. The legislation also seeks to provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other states. (PTI)

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