Memorandum to Joint Parliamentary Committee on Bill to Amend the Citizenship Act, 1955
October 3, 2016
The central government is trying to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to facilitate the granting of Indian citizenship to Hindu minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The proposed amendment is an attempt to introduce 'Right to return' of certain groups of people on the basis of religion, even though Indian law and the Constitution do not, till date, recognise any notion of 'Right to return'. The Amendment Bill is clearly communally motivated.
After strong opposition to the Amendment Bill during the summer session of the parliament, the Amendment Bill was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on 11 August 2016. Without much publicity, the JPC announced on 16th September that they were seeking opinion from citizens about the proposed amendment, till 30th September.
Below is the full text of a memorandum that has been sent by concerned citizens to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Amendment Bill:
Dr. Satya Pal Singh, Member of Parliament of India
Joint Committee on Bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955
Lok Sabha Secretariat,
Subject: Views and Suggestions on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
We would like to register our deep concern over the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 which is being considered by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. Apart from further complicating the already vulnerable demographic cauldron of the state of Assam, the circumstances under which the amendment is sought to be carried out raise questions about the federal structure of the country. Whatever humanitarian consideration prompted the proposed amendment, granting citizenship to people belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on the basis of religious persecution would also be a mockery of the Constitution of India which asserts the country as secular.
In the context of Assam, a state that has been continually facing ethnic-demographic convulsions, it would render meaningless the Assam Accord of 1985, and subsequent amendment of the Citizenship Act in 1986 in which Article 6A was inserted. Retrospectively Article 6A granted citizenship to all those who entered Assam on or before 24 March 1971. The present attempt of the Central Government to extend citizenship beyond the cut-off date of 24 March 1971 is vehemently opposed by the people of Assam.
Keeping in line with the above view, we request you to withdraw the proposed amendment.
Also, the decision of the committee chaired by you to take into account the opinion of the people via email, fax, or post only in English or Hindi within a time period of 15 days (from 16 September 2016 till 30 September 2016) is inadequate to incorporate the views and suggestions of the majority of the people.
We request your kind discretion to intervene and extend the deadline given to the people to respond to the Joint Parliamentary Committee by three months at the very least. We also request you to kindly permit the people of Assam to submit their responses in their own official native languages in whatever method of communication they prefer in light of the fact that neither English nor Hindi is widely known among the various communities of Assam.
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