The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has been in the news even before the elections for the 17th Lok Sabha were held and the new government under Narendra Modi assumed the office on May 30 this year.

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Amit Shah, the former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the current Home Minister has, during the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and after taking charge as the HM, stated in unequivocal terms that the Modi government would introduce the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament and see it through in both the houses.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The BJP in general and Amit Shah, in particular, have been harping to grant Indian citizenship to the members of the religious minorities in the neighbouring countries namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. If the CAB is passed in the Parliament, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan will be eligible for Indian citizenship. The group of people that is most conspicuous by its absence is Muslims, even though the community has not been named overtly.

The CAB also makes an exception to the duration of stay of the eligible candidates. The duration has been reduced or relaxed from 11 years to 6 years.

Now with the commencement of the Winter Session of the Parliament on Monday, November 16, the Modi government has the CAB right on top of its agenda. The government has listed the bill in its items of business for the session, as the reports say.

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Citizenship Amendment Bill—All you need to know

The same bill had been introduced by the previous BJP-led NDA government but it could not materialise in the face of some stiff protests from the Opposition which criticised the bill, terming it as discriminatory on religious grounds.

Earlier this month, Congress had made known its opposition to the bill as Jairam Ramesh, Congress Rajya Sabha member from the North Eastern state of Meghalaya said, “The proposed amendment is an attempt to divide the Indian Society which violates Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution. The CAB is anti-secular and anti-constitutional since it is against the preamble of the Constitution.”

He reaffirmed added that Congress will strongly and firmly oppose the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).

The North East has witnessed massive protests against the bill as many student organisations and regional political parties have been protesting on the grounds that it seeks to grant nationality to mostly Hindus who have come into India up to December 31, 2014, thereby increasing the deadline from 1971 as per the Assam Accord.

The most recent protests in the North East against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill erupted on November 18, the day the Winter Session started. As per the reports, effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal were burnt by Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), a youth organisation, in different parts of the state as a mark of protest.

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Among those who protested were the North East Students Organisation (NESO), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), and Left-Democratic Mancha, Assam, among others. NESO even submitted a memorandum to Modi and Shah voicing their opposition to the Bill.

In fact, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had called the bill a “trap to exclude Bengalis and Hindus”.

In the face of the stiff opposition, it is learnt that the government might make a few changes in the present format of the bill by incorporating new provisions.

“There will be some changes in the new draft. The work on the draft is still going on,” an official privy to the development told the news agency, adding that there is a possibility of change in the cut-off date too.

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