NEW DELHI, Jan 9 - In an unexpected twist, a last-minute understanding between the ruling NDA and the Opposition led the government to keep the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 pending for passage in the Rajya Sabha to a later stage.
In a swift change of strategy, the Congress on Wednesday adopted an aggressive stance and opposed the Bill along with other parties, including the Left and TMC. The Congress MPs, who rushed to the well of the House demanding withdrawal of the Bill, managed to stall the proceedings after the Special Mention Hour forcing the deputy chairman Harivansh to adjourn the House till 2 pm.
The floor managers of the ruling party were apparently rattled by the unity of the Opposition parties, including TMC, CPI-M, CPI and regional parties like TDP, AIADMK and DMK as they protested the manner in which the Bills were sought to be introduced. The government was trying to bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the 10 per cent reservation Bill at the last hour through a supplementary list.
The scene then shifted to the deputy chairman’s chamber, where Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel met Congress MPs, including Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma and Bhubaneswar Kalita, and other opposition leaders for a deliberation to break the logjam.
According to sources, it was decided at the meeting that the government would bring the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 that was passed by Lok Sabha last evening and not insist on passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The government also agreed to the demand for a statement by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the prevailing law and order situation in the Northeast.
The move was seen as tactical retreat by the government because the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has finalised the dates of the next session of Parliament that gets under way on January 31. It is likely that the government may bring the Bill then for passage.
Earlier amid interruptions, Bhubaneswar Kalita said that the Northeast is burning and there is nobody to answer to that. “The entire Northeast is burning on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and we demand that the Home Minister should come and make a statement,” he said.
Congress MPs Ripun Bora and Santius Kujur rushed to the well of the House in protest, waving copies of the Bill and the JPC report. The duo was later pacified by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
A JPC member belonging to the BJP said that the Bill has been scuttled.
The Bill is now likely to come up for passage in the Rajya Sabha during the next session of the Parliament that gets under way on January 31.
Meanwhile, making a statement in the House, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that according to reports about the law and order situation in the Northeast, violence was reported in three states – Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. “The situation is now under control. We will take all steps to tackle the situation,” he said.
“In future, we will hold discussions with all the chief ministers of the northeastern states. In the last four years, the situation in the Northeast has seen improvement and security and intelligence agency officials have been coordinating to resolve the long standing demands of the people,” he added.
Clarifying that the citizenship Bill is not confined to Assam alone, Singh said it will apply to all states and Union Territories of the country. “The beneficiaries of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill can reside in any state of the country. The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden and the Government of India is committed to give all help to the State government and people of Assam,” Singh said.
He said the persecution migrants have no place to go to, except India. “The Act will provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other states,” he added.
The Union Home Minister said the present government has taken several measures to implement the Assam Accord. An important pillar of the Assam Accord is Clause 6 dealing with constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for protection of cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people, Singh said.
The MHA has notified on January 5 a high level committee consisting of eminent and knowledgeable persons from the Assamese society with a very wide mandate to suggest such safeguards for protection of the Assamese identity, including reservation in the State Assembly and in jobs. The committee will submit its report within six months, he added.
Singh also said that full safeguard will be provided to protect the interests, rights and privileges of existing scheduled tribes of Assam. A separate Bill will be brought to grant ST status to Bodo Kacharis in hill districts of Assam and Karbis in the rest of Assam, he said. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the autonomous district councils, he added.