Violent protests have erupted in Guwahati against the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in both in the lower and upper houses in India’s parliament.
The CAB paves the way for citizenship to lakhs of illegal immigrants living in various parts of India, even if they lacked any document to prove their residency.
The bill would provide citizenship to religious minorities with native roots in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and entered India before December 31, 2014.
The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on Monday, Dec. 9 , whereas Rajay Sabha on Wednesday, Dec 11.
Seeking all members’ support to the legislation, Home Minister Amit Shah requested opposition not to use politics to divide the society.
However, the members of Shiv Sena, the latest Congress ally, were absent at the time of voting.
Replying to the debate, Shah said 44 members presented their views, suggestions and objections in the House. “I want present few facts. This Bill should have not been brought. There was no need to amend the Citizenship Act if country was not divided. Also, had some previous government acted, we would have not brought the Bill,” he said.
Stressing the need of the Bill, Shah said, “For how long we will keep on delaying the problems of the country. The Liaquat-Nehru pact (or the Delhi Pact) happened on April 8, 1950. Both the countries agreed to treat minorities with dignity and allow them to freely follow their religion. It was a promise. But eventually the promise was broken.”
He assured the House that the Bill would allow illegal immigrants to say the truth that they were immigrants and seek citizenship. “The cries and tears of these people were never heard or cared for for so many years,” the Minister said.
On why minorities from Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka had been left out, Shah said the government had allowed citizenship to people coming from Sri Lanka and Uganda and amendments were made accordingly. “We named three countries only to help people coming from these countries. We don’t need to distract the problems now,” he said and added, the Bill was introduced in 2015 and gone through parliamentary committees.
“Solving problem is the priority, keeping citizens in mind, is aim of our government,” Shah said.
Remarking that the Constitution of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan states that they are Islamic countries, Shah said, “Are Muslims minority in these three countries? When countries’ religion is Islam then cases of persecution of Muslims very less.”
The Home Minister said we had provisions for Muslim victims of persecution and they had been given citizenship on case to case basis. He also highlighted how Chidambaram as the Home Minister had accorded citizenship to Hindus and Sikhs in Rajasthan.
Asking the opposition to stop befooling minorities, Shah said, “What the Congress is doing is secularism. And what we are doing is against the Constitution.”
“I have always said minorities in India need not be scared of anything. This CAB will not affect any Mulish brother and sisters. Why opposition is creating a divide,” the Minister said.
“On September 26, 1947, Gandhi said, Hindu and Sikh living in Pakistan can fearlessly come to India. It is duty of India to give them shelter and job,” he substantiated his arguments by quoting Mahatma Gandhi.
Criticizing the Congress, Bhupender Yadav (BJP) said they were in power for 10 years but did nothing for the persecuted people. “This Citizenship Amendment Bill was discussed during the UPA and the NDA governments. The UPA ignored it and the NDA took up the issue and is ensuring that immigrants should be treated with equality,” Yadav said.
KJ Alphons (BJP) said the Bill would allow persecuted minorities in neighboring countries the right to live.
The Janata Dal-United supported the Bill. Naga Peoples Front (NPF) MP KG Kenye extended his support to the Bill and said the issue was being discussed in the House completely out of context.
Opposing the Bill, Kapil Sibal (Congress) said the CAB had a legal color of the two-nation theory and added, religion couldn’t be a factor in acquisition of citizenship.
Terming the CAB “blatantly unconstitutional”, P. Chidambaram (Congress) said the government was introducing a new category called citizenship by arbitrary executive feat.
“I dare the government to lay the opinion of the Law Department. I dare the government to invite the Attorney General to answers the questions. What we are doing today is breaking the Constitution from within. A small part of the Constitution is being racked and being demolished by these insidious people,” Chidambaram said.
Taking a dig at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sanjay Raut (Sena) said that India’s muscular and powerful government would finish Pakistan if they didn’t like their language. “We have a very powerful government. If you do not like the language of Pakistan we should finish it,” the Sena leader said.