BJP Set To Launch A Mass Contact Programme Over Citizenship Amendment Bill

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New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to launch a mass contact programme over the Citizenship (Amendment) bill. The bill makes illegal Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship. The BJP has asked all its chief ministers to get the proposed law translated into local languages, printed on pamphlets, and distributed among people.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016, but it is stuck because of strong opposition. The existing provisions of the law — as per the Citizenship Act, 1955 — say an applicant must have lived in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years, to apply for citizenship. The amendment proposes to relax this 11-year requirement to six years for people following the six religions and belonging to the three countries.

“BJP chief Amit Shah discussed this outreach at a meeting with chief ministers of BJP-ruled states in New Delhi last month,” a party said on condition of anonymity. A copy of Shah’s statements on the bill, too, was shared with the BJP chief ministers.

Shah has strongly backed the bill in the past and has asked the Opposition to clear to clear its stand on the issue.

“The programme is targeted at the North-east states and West Bengal,” said a second BJP leader, who asked not to be named.

The BJP move comes amid a controversy over the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which seeks to identify illegal immigrants in Assam. About 4 million applicants have been left out of the final NRC draft list published in July and cases regarding the screening process and re-verification are being heard by the Supreme Court.

“Both NRC and the Citizenship (amendment) bill address two issues for the BJP,” said the second leader.

“NRC is critical to national security issues, as it helps identifies infiltrators from Bangladesh. The citizenship bill, which talks about citizenship to persecuted Hindus and non-Muslim minorities, adds to the Hindutva discourse. The party feels this will help it earn new territory in the North-east, where the settlement of Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh is a major issue,” he said.

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