The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, got President Ram Nath Kovind's nod late on Thursday night, paving its way to becoming an Act. The development came even as the Northeast is boiling in protests and demonstrations against it.
As per Gazette of India, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 of "Parliament received the assent of the President on December 12, 2019, and here by published for general information".
The Act comes into effect with its publication in the official gazette.
As per the Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and by the Lok Sabha in midnight sitting little past on Monday.
What does the act say?
The bill that seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Billseeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
Highlights of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act
- Granting nationality to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries.
- The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship was that the applicant must have resided in India in the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.
- Now the amendment relaxes the second requirement — from 11 years to six years.
- Provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
Protests in Assam
Meanwhile, Assam continued to be in flames on Thursday as anti-Citizenship Amendment Bill protesters set ablaze the house of an MLA, torched vehicles and burnt down a circle office as the state government removed two key police officers including the Guwahati Police Commissioner.
The Army conducted flag march in Guwahati, while the authorities extended the suspension on internet services across the state for another 48 hours from 12 noon on Thursday, even as most airlines cancelled flights to and from Dibrugarh and Guwahati, and train movement was halted.
Munna Prasad Gupta was appointed the new Guwahati police chief replacing Deepak Kumar, while state Additional General of Police (Law and Order) Mukesh Agarwal was also transferred out.
In an appeal to the people, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal called for maintaining peace and calm.
"I assure the people of Assam full protection to ensure their identity as a whole," Sonowal said in a statement here, urging the masses to "please come forward and create a situation of peace and tranquillity."
"I hope the people will consider this appeal sensibly," he said.
Officials said protesters set fire to the house of MLA Binod Hazarika in Chabua and went on a rampage torching vehicles and the circle office.
With the situation worsening, the Army was conducting flag marches in Guwahati where protesters violated the curfew on Thursday morning.
Most flights to and from Guwahati and Dibrugarh have been cancelled by various airlines, while the railways suspended all passenger train services to Assam.
"Indigo Airlines has cancelled one flight to Guwahati from Kolkata. The flights to Dibrugarh are being cancelled by most airlines due to the ongoing protests. However, Indigo will operate a ferry flight to bring back the stranded passengers from Dibrugarh," an NSCBI Airport spokesperson said.
A Northeast Frontier Railway official said the decision to suspend passenger train operations to Assam and Tripura was taken on Wednesday night in view of the security situation.
A large number of passengers were stranded at Guwahati and Kamakhya with the railways' short-terminating long-distance trains at Guwahati.
Protests in Meghalaya
Meghalaya too was put under lockdown as mobile and internet services were blocked across the state for two days. An indefinite curfew has also been imposed in parts of capital city Shillong.
Mobile phone videos from the region being circulated on the internet show at least two cars on fire and a scramble to shut the town's main shopping street, the Police Bazar. Another video shows a massive torch light rally being taken out on one of the town's main road.
Young men and women holding banners were filmed shouting 'Conrad go back' in front of the chief minister's convoy.
CRPF troops moved to Northeast
In order to maintain law and order in Northeast, 12 additional companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were moved from Kashmir on Thursday.
According to IANS, 40 companies have so far been moved from Kashmir to the Northeast after the region boiled over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
More than 100 companies of CRPF were deployed in Jammu and Kashmir before the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5. The thinning of security forces from Kashmir has started with the movement of CRPF companies to the Northeast.