New Delhi: Amid intense debate over its legality and sparring between government and Opposition MPs over the Constitution’s spirit of secularism, the Lok Sabha passed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) on Monday. During voting on the bill, 311 MPs voted in favour while 80 voted against it.
The CAB seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted refugees or migrants of six communities — Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Buddhists — who live as minorities in India’s three neighbouring countries, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The CAB, which has been criticised for granting citizenship only to non-Muslim refugees of three Islamic neighbouring cou-ntries, is expected to come up in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday for its nod.
While the Opposition termed CAB as a regressive, discriminatory and divisive legislation that is against the basic character and intent of the Constitution, and is a means to target Muslims by treating them as “second-rate citizens,” Union home minister Amit Shah, while tabling the bill in Lok Sabha, said the CAB will provide safety net of citizenship to persecuted persons and denied that there is any political agenda behind it. The minister also made it clear that the government is determined to bring National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the same way.
“This will not do injustice to anyone but bring justice to people who have been waiting for 70 years. There is no hidden political agenda. We had declared CAB in our election manifestos based on which 130 crore people have voted us to power. Those who are opposing this bill have an agenda on minorities. This bill has been a demand for years as several were persecuted (in our neighbouring countries),” Mr Shah said.
Rejecting claims that the bill is anti-Muslim, Mr Shah said, “We will have to differentiate between intruders and refugees. CAB does not discriminate against anyone and does not snatch anyone’s rights. It will not do injustice to anyone… This bill is not even .001 per cent against Muslims citizens of India. It is against infiltrators. If any member proves that this bill discriminates, I will take it back... Muslim citizens in India live with respect and will continue to do so.” Mr Shah asserted that India has given similar rights to people in the past.
Mr Shah added that even former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani were refugees when they came from Pakistan.
“All refugees were accepted due to which they (Dr Singh and Mr Advani) could become Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister of this country,” Shah said.
He had earlier said that while India looked after its minorities well, Pakistan had failed to protect its minorities under the Nehru-Liaquat Pact.
While addressing apprehensions of the people of North East, who are strongly resisting CAB, Shah said the Modi government is committed to protect the customs and culture of people of the region.
Elaborating on this, he said provisions of CAB will not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and in the areas covered under The Inner Line (ILP), notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
Currently, ILP is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. He added that Manipur will also be brought
under Inner Line Permit regime.
“I just want to tell the people that all the objections posed by north-eastern states have been addressed in this Bill. There is no reason to get excited, there is no need to protest, enough has happened already, now this country just wants to go ahead peacefully,” Shah said.
Earlier, Opposition leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Saugata Roy, N.K. Premchandran, Gaurav Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor and Assaduddin Owaisi opposed the introduction of the Bill, saying it was violative of various provisions of the Constitution, including granting citizenship on the basis on religion.
The CAB was introduced after a division of votes for which 293 MPs voted in favour and 82 against it.
Opposing the Bill, Congress MP Manish Tewari termed CAB as unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which is secular.
“Citizenship is a sensitive issue. This Bill violates Article 14, 15, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Equals cannot be treated as unequal. When a person comes to India, he is a refugee. You cannot discriminate against him on the basis of religion. The Bill has to be equitable, just and non-discriminatory,” said Tewari.
He also mentioned Maldives, saying that even though it is an Islamic nation, the government has not mentioned its name in the list of countries.
Opposing Shah’s statement that the Congress was responsible for India’s Partition in 1947, Tewari said the foundation of the two-nation theory was laid at the Ahmedabad session of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1935 that was presided over by V.D. Savarkar, and not the Congress.