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Consensus eludes JPC on Citizenship Amendment Bill

Consensus eludes JPC on Citizenship Amendment Bill

New Delhi: In a new twist to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Trinamool Congress on Tuesday attempted to evolve a consensus over a proposal to drop mention of any religion and country from the Bill to avoid further controversy.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) meeting chaired by Rajendra Agrawal on Tuesday remained inconclusive, as members moved amendments. On Tuesday, only six-seven MPs could move the amendments out of the total 12 amendments moved by the Members.

The Trinamool Congress sponsored proposal was supported by 13 Members including Sushmita Dev of Assam. It was their argument that persecuted persons like Taslima Nasreen have been given shelter by India. They also mentioned about persecution of Ahmadia community in Pakistan.

Talking to the Millennium Post, JPC chairman Agarwal said the centre was not in hurry to pass the Bill. "There is no hasty of passing such sensitive Bill on the floor of the House, having large public interest especially. We'll submit the amendments and I believe the government will take care of the sensitive parts," he said.

Talking to newsmen after the meeting later, the chairman further said that several amendments have come up including a proposal to drop Bangladesh and Assam from the purview of the Bill. Some members also suggested that the word religiously persecuted and Hindu Bengalis should be dropped. An amendment has come regarding section 6 A of the Citizenship Act. There will be more discussions after which the JPC will finalise its stand based on consensus.

"We will try to have more meeting meetings during the Session, which is almost a month long and we will try to submit our report towards the end of the Session," he said.

If no consensus emerges than we will go for voting. There was discussion on Assam Accord but no final decision has been taken so far, Agrawal said.

In a related development, Trinamool congress MP Swagata Roy on Tuesday took strong objection to the reported statement of Assam state minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma that he will withdraw the Bill if ULFA (I) chief Paresh Baruah comes for talks. Roy advocated that a Privilege Motion should be brought against him for his claim that he can withdraw the Bill. "Who is he, is he the Prime Minister or Speaker of the Lok Sabha," he asked, a member of the JPC told this newspaper quoting him.

Significantly, Roy was supported by the Congress MPs and other opposition MPs besides a section of BJP members, said sources. Asked about the development, the chairman said there is a question of protocol and proceeding of JPC is confidential. Until the report is tabled in the Parliament, one should not speak about it. "We have not issued any notice to him but one should refrain from talking about it as it is against protocol," said the chairman.

A member of the Committee said the take away from the meeting was that the BJP were not taking a clear line on the Bill and seems to scale down their opposition.

For instance, Vinay Sahasrasbuddhe supported Bhubaneswar Kalita's argument that the situation in Assam might deteriorate for worse if the Bill is passed. Supporting a broader discussion, the Rajya Sabha MP said he had a long association with All Assam Students Union and was also involved with the Assam agitation and therefore understood the problem better.

On several other issues also BJP MPs supported the opposition Members clearing indicating that they have dropped the hard line stand that was seen at the last meeting, observed a MP.

Sources said that Sushmita Dev said the cut-off of 2014 should be accepted as former chief minister Tarun Gogoi has also said that the voter's list of 2014 was valid as elections were held on the basis of that rolls.

Meanwhile, a BJP member suggested that the Bill should mention that non-Muslims, who face religious persecution anywhere will be given shelter and citizenship, a step ahead of the TMC sponsored proposal.

Sources said that Bhubaneswar Kalita, who had moved the amendment said the Bill was not Constitutionally valid and it will render Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act un-operational. He said that law and order situation, which is already tense will further deteriorate if the Bill is passed.

He moved an amendment seeking withdrawal of the Bill besides seeking removal of the two notices of 2015, which he described as subordinate legislations. Normally a Bill is first passed and then subordinate legislations are moved. But in this case, the subordinate legislations were passed first, which is highly improper, sources said quoting Kalita.

Meanwhile, after meeting with the All Assam Students' Union representatives on Monday, Andhra Pradesh chief minister TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu also decided that his party will oppose the Bill in the national level. The AGP, an ally of ruling BJP in the state of Assam has also reaffirmed that they would come out the alliance the day when the Bill passed.

Gautam Lahiri & Simontini Bhattacharjee

Gautam Lahiri & Simontini Bhattacharjee

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