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Cabinet gives green signal to Citizenship Amendment Bill

Cabinet gives green signal to Citizenship Amendment Bill

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which is now expected to be tabled in Parliament next week.

"It has been given clearance and will be discussed once it is tabled in Parliament," Union minister Prakash Javadekar said in the Cabinet briefing.

The Cabinet approval was crucial as the Centre has been strongly advocating a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The Opposition has staunchly opposed both the Bill and the country-wide NRC. At the Cabinet briefing, Javadekar said the government has taken care of the interests of everyone and "the interest of India".

"People will welcome it as it is in the interest of the nation," he said when asked about the protests by different groups, especially in north-eastern states where refugees from the three neighbouring countries have been living in large numbers.

The Bill aims to provide citizenship to those who had been forced to seek shelter in India because of religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries, primarily Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is a drastic shift from the provisions of the Citizenship Act of 1955 that labels a person an "illegal immigrant" if he or she has entered India without travel documents or has overstayed the date specified in the documents.

Taking into consideration the concerns of North-eastern states, the inner line permit areas of Arunachal, Nagaland and Mizoram and regions under the Sixth Schedule in the North-East have been exempted from the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. Key Opposition parties like the Congress and TMC have severely criticised the Bill.

"From what we are seeing in the media, the BJP is bringing this bill for cheap, narrow political gains. My party's position and detailed perspective on this bill will be shared next week in Parliament, on the floor of both Houses," TMC MP Derek O'Brien said in a statement.

Congress' Shashi Tharoor said: "Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood...that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of the nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maulana Azad, Dr Ambedkar have said, that religion cannot determine nationhood," Tharoor told reporters in Parliament.

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