New Delhi: The Union Cabinet has cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, at a meeting on Wednesday. The Bill will be taken up by Parliament next week. Also Read - Rajnath Singh Asks BJP MPs to be Present When Citizenship Amendment Bill Will be Introduced in Parliament

The Cabinet also approved a proposal to extend the reservation for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and the State assemblies for another 10 years. Also Read - 12 Non-BJP MPs Write to PM Modi Against Citizenship Bill, Urge Him to Exempt Northeastern States From Purview

In a parliamentary meeting on Tuesday, Defence minister Rajnath Singh cracked the whip against absenteeism and asked party MPs to be present when home minister Amit Shah tables the Bill in Parliament. Also Read - Centre Revokes Citizenship of Telangana MLA Ramesh Chennamaneni’s For Concealing Facts

The minister also equated the Bill to that of the Centre’s Article 370 move. Rejecting the opposition’s criticism of the Citizenship Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there, Singh asserted that the BJP has always worked to unite the country and its people.

Sources said Singh also made a reference to the charge that the bill was against secularism as its beneficiaries excluded Muslims. He said the three neighbouring countries were essentially Islamic nations and so it is non-Muslims and not Muslims who are at the receiving end of religious persecution there.

Last week, Union home Minister Amit Shah held talks with leaders of political parties, students bodies and civil society groups from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya over the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya Sarbananda Sonowal, Pema Khandu and Conrad Sangma, Union minister Kiren Rijiju and several MPs attended the meeting.

Sources said that Amit Shah has indicated that the Citizenship Amendment Bill may not affect the tribal areas protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and those governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, in order to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who come to India due to religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan even if they don’t possess proper documents.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday also approved the withdrawal of Jammu And Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019, and Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019

(With PTI Inputs)