Tribal areas of the NE outside the modified citizenship bill

NEW DELHI: The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved a revised version (CAB), which seeks to provide a path to Indian citizenship for six minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on December 31, 2014 or earlier to Escape from religious persecution.

Such Hindu, Sikh, Christian, country, Jain and Buddhist immigrants will be eligible for Indian citizenship from the date of entry and it is likely that the reworked bill will be presented in Parliament early next week. Unlike 2016, when the CAB faced adverse numbers in Rajya Sabha, this time the government is better able to obtain legislation through the upper house.

Unlike the 2016 version of CAB, the latest draft leaves out of reach the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura covered by the Sixth Constitution Program, as well as the areas where the Inland Line Permit is applied. This exclusion provision seeks to mitigate the concerns repeatedly expressed by state governments, political parties, student bodies and civil society groups in the Northeast about the likely displacement of tribes and indigenous peoples as a result of the implementation of CAB.

The guarantees followed intense conversations between Interior Minister Amit Shah and northeastern groups, where he emphasized adequate protection for locals and noted the continued influx of illegals that led to demographic changes. He argued that this economic influx of Bangladeshis would be counteracted through the National Registry of Citizens (NRC), which will work in conjunction with the CAB. The NRC will work to provide verified citizenship lists, while CAB offers help only to minorities whose case is viewed sympathetically by India for reasons of religious persecution.

The CAB seeks to insert a condition in Section 2 (1) (b) of the Citizenship Act of 1955, saying that immigrants who are exempt by the Center under the Passport Act (Entrance to India) and the Foreigners Law , will not be treated as illegal immigrants for the purposes of the Citizenship Law.

In addition, according to Section 6B that is proposed to be inserted in the Law, for minorities who have emigrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the aggregate period of residence or government service in India required shall not be less than five years (it was six years in CAB 2016) instead of not less than 11 years under current law.

The exclusion under the Sixth List will mean that there will be restrictions on the residence and ownership of land in these states and areas to address fears that Indian citizenship will add illegals to the population and deplete resources. Interestingly, these restrictions are similar to some that were eliminated in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of the special state of the previous state.

The bill passed by the cabinet also proposes adding a subsection (d) to Section 7, which provides for the cancellation of the OCI registration when the holder of the OCI card has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law. valid. However, the cancellation order will not be approved unless the holder of the OCI card has had a reasonable chance of being heard. This amendment was also proposed in the 2016 bill passed by Lok Sabha, but it could not be taken to Rajya Sabha due to the lack of government numbers and in view of the opposition of the northeastern states.

This time, Shah followed an appropriate process of consultation with all interested parties in the northeastern states before shaping the bill submitted to the cabinet on Wednesday. Over the past week, Shah has met with the chief ministers of all interested northeastern states and also with opposition leaders, as well as student leaders and civil society delegations, to hear and dispel their concerns .

According to the proposed Section 6B of CAB 2019, as of the date of commencement of the amended Law, any pending procedure under the residence, illegal immigration or citizenship section will be suspended upon granting citizenship.

A government official told TOI that the changes in the Citizenship Law were aimed at eliminating the difficulties and difficulties faced by a specific class of people who were forced to seek refuge in India due to religious persecution in their countries of origin, thus promoting the principles of equity and inclusion. The official added that the clarifications about illegal immigrants would be placed in the public domain.