Commenting on the reports of violence in the northeastern states as a result of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 being passed in the Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday informed the Rajya Sabha that “misconception” is being spread about the Bill.
He said the Bill, which seeks to remove hurdles in the way of eligible migrants from six minority groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan getting Indian citizenship, was not confined to Assam or the northeastern states but will apply to all states and union territories.
“The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam and northeastern states alone would not have to bear the entire burden and the government is committed to providing all help to the state government and the people of Assam.
“The purpose is that the migrants facing persecution anywhere in the country can apply for Indian citizenship. After that they can live in any state of the country like an Indian citizen,” the Minister said.
His statement came after violent incidents were reported from some northeastern states including Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya after the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday amid objections raised by the opposition parties.
Rajnath Singh said Assam had been facing illegal migrant problems for several decades and had also witnessed an agitation over the issue during 1979-1985 which led to the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985.
Dispelling the misgivings about the Bill, he highlighted the discrimination and religious persecution faced by minority communities in those countries.
“They have no place to go to except India. The Bill will provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and others,” he added.
The Bill seeks to enable Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or those whose valid documents expired in recent years to acquire Indian citizenship through the process of naturalisation.
The Minister said the Bill would help the migrants facing religious prosecution in the three countries to get Indian citizenship.
He said religious minorities in Pakistan have been facing systematic discrimination and, though the present governments in Afghanistan and Bangladesh were committed to the welfare of the minorities, they have faced problems in the past.
He said no other country except India could have provided interim protection from punitive legal action to minorities facing difficulties in the neighbouring countries.
Rajnath Singh said that the Narendra Modi-led Central government had taken steps to properly implement the provisions of the Assam Accord and was effectively implementing the National Register of Citizens.
“We are committed to completing the process. As I said earlier, no Indian citizen will be excluded.”
The Minister said not much was done over the past 35 years to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord which provides for taking steps to promote the social, cultural and linguistic identity of the state. “But our government is committed to it,” he said.
Singh said that the Bill will give Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities in Assam.
The communities that are proposed to be included in the ST category include Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutia, Moran, Matak and Tea tribes of the state.
He said the Assam government had been making recommendations concerning these communities since 1980 and the Home Ministry had formed a committee in 2016 which gave its recommendations in December 2018.