New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Lok Sabha Tuesday that it has been given extra time till July 2021 to frame and notify the rules to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Until the rules are not notified, the Act cannot be implemented.
The additional time has been granted by committees of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State Nityanand Rai said in response to a parliamentary question.
The CAA was passed by the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 and by the Rajya Sabha on 11 December 2019. It came into force on 10 January, but the rules for implementation are still being drawn up.
The Act proposes that people from six religions — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be granted citizenship if they arrived in India before 31 December 2014.
The upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam have put the ruling BJP in a bind over the implementation of the CAA. In Bengal, where the BJP is hoping to win elections for the first time, the Matua community and others have been waiting for the 2019 Act to be implemented. But it’s the opposite in Assam, where the BJP is in power and many indigenous communities have been opposing the new law.
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Congress MP V.K. Sreekandan Tuesday asked in the Lok Sabha if the government is considering implementing the CAA soon, and if the rules are still being prepared.
To this, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said: “The Committees on Subordinate Legislation, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, have granted extension of time up to 9 April 2021 and 9 July 2021 respectively to frame these rules under the CAA.”
According to the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures, the ministry concerned has to frame rules within six months of the passage of an Act, for its “effective implementation”. In case the ministry is unable to make those rules, it needs to seek an extension from the Committees on Subordinate Legislation, but cannot be given more than three months at a time.
So far, the MHA has already taken two extensions — the one till July 2021 is the third, ThePrint has learnt.
Why Matuas in Bengal want CAA
The Matua community of Hindu migrants from the erstwhile East Pakistan has been upset over the delay in implementation of the CAA in West Bengal. The community has been vocal about its demand for Indian citizenship, and the BJP has backed it, even getting an MP from the community — Santanu Thakur — elected in 2019.
On 30 January, when Home Minister Amit Shah had to cancel his visit to Matua stronghold Thakurnagar in the North 24 Parganas district, senior BJP leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy rushed to meet prominent members of the community to assure them that Shah would soon conduct another meeting.
The significance of the Matuas can be gauged by the fact that they make up close to 2 crore or 20 per cent of West Bengal’s entire population. The community is spread out over five districts — North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Howrah, and North and South Dinajpur — and constitutes about 40-50 per cent of the population.
“The Matua community had played a significant role in BJP’s success in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Their votes had helped the BJP get a number of seats, especially in Cooch Behar, North Malda, Burdwan-Durgapur, and other regions. They have been demanding the implementation of CAA for quite some time, and the delay is only leading to more discontent,” said a senior BJP leader.
However, in Assam, where the BJP has been in power for nearly five years now, indigenous communities have historically opposed immigrants from East Pakistan/Bangladesh regardless of whether they are Hindus or Muslims.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Assam on 23 January was significant in this regard — while distributing land allotment certificates to people at Jerenga Pathar in Sivasagar district, he had repeatedly mentioned the indigenous Assamese communities, but did not make any mention of the CAA.
The opposition in Assam has already made CAA a poll pitch, alleging that the BJP is trying to destroy Assamese culture and identity through it.
Also read: No immediate reason for Dhaka to be concerned on CAA-NRC, says Bangladesh foreign secretary
Perhaps an enlightened judgment from the honourable apex court could be rendered before then.
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