The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 11. The Bill is likely to be taken up for consideration and passing following a debate.
After having been debated for many hours, the contentious Bill was passed in the Lower House on December 9, with 334 members favouring it and 106 voting against it.
Several amendments brought by opposition members, including one by a Shiv Sena Member of Parliament (MP), were defeated either by voice vote or by division.
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. According to the Bill, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution in their respective native countries, will not be treated as illegal immigrants and stand eligible for Indian citizenship.
Protests rock Northeast
The Bill has triggered severe protests in the Northeast. Those opposing the Bill claim that it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of their religion.
Internet services were suspended in Tripura for 48 hours, starting from 2.00 pm on December 10 in view of the protests. An official order also prohibits SMS messages of all mobile service providers. The step was taken to prevent mischief-mongers from spreading rumours.
Regular life was paralysed in Assam's Brahmaputra Valley during the protest, led by the All Assam Students' Union and the North East Students' Organisation (NESO).
Processions were taken out in different areas of Guwahati, with protesters raising slogans against the emotive legislation.
Agitators engaged in a scuffle with security forces near the Secretariat and Assembly buildings in Assam when they were prevented from moving forward, police sources said.
Train services across Assam were affected as picketers blocked the tracks, a spokesperson for the Railways said. Examinations were shelved and rescheduled by universities because of the bandh.
The strike, however, had little impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley.
Educational institutions, banks, commercial establishments and markets were closed while public and private vehicles were off the roads in most places of Arunachal Pradesh in response to the strike called by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU).
The All Manipur Students' Union (AMSU) observed a total shutdown in Manipur from 3.00 am to 6.00 pm, with the organisation warning that it would intensify its agitation if the bill was not immediately withdrawn.
Incidents of tyre burning and vandalism were reported in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong.
To assuage feelings of tribals of the Northeast, where many feel that permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region's demography, the Centre has made provisions under which the Bill will not be applicable in Inner Line Permit (ILP) areas and those tribal regions that are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a strong majority in the Lok Sabha, it lacks numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
Yet, the BJP is confident that the proposed legislation will be passed by the Upper House.
Does BJP have the numbers?
The current effective strength of the Rajya Sabha is 240. This means, the BJP requires support of 121 MPs to pass the Bill. A report by news agency PTI, citing sources, suggests that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is confident of securing 124-130 votes.
BJP has 83 members in Rajya Sabha. Its allies All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have 11, six and three MPs respectively.
The Bill also received the backing of regional parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (seven MPs), YSR Congress Party (two MPs) and Telugu Desam Party (two MPs). These parties are expected to support the Bill in this House too.
PTI has reported, citing BJP’s floor managers, seven Independents and nominated members and many regional parties with one MP each will also support the Bill.
Opposition comes together
Those opposing the Bill have claimed that that citizenship cannot be given on the basis of religion.
The Indian National Congress, Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Left front parties, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will be voting against the Bill. Together, they have 97 members.
On December 10, Shiv Sena indicated that it might change its stand on the issue. With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), some of the other smaller parties and possibly the Shiv Sena, the tally could touch 110.
(With inputs from PTI)