Citizenship Bill passed in Lok Sabha amid protests

Congress divided India on religious lines: Amit Shah
Citizenship Bill passed in Lok Sabha amid protests
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The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 at midnight on Monday despite protests by the Opposition, calling it "fundamentally unconstitutional" and in "violation" of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah rejected allegations of Oppositionmembers, saying: "I assure that the Bill does not violate any article of theConstitution and that no citizen will be deprived of one's rights."

The Bill was passed by aDivision Vote with 311 members voting in favour of the Bill and 80 members votingagainst.

The Bill seeks to provideIndian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists"fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh." The Ministersaid that the Bill has been introduced after analyzing the constitution ofPakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

"If minorities in theneighbouring countries are being humiliated, India can't just be a mutespectator. What is the fault of these minorities in these countries?" askedAmit Shah.

"The three nations thathave been included in the bill- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan- havedeclared Islam as their State religion in their constitution," said Amit Shah.

"Citizenship Bill will giverelief to people living a painful life after facing persecution in neighbouringcountries."

He said Muslim populationin India has increased in the last seven decades. "Every citizen has been givena place in the Bill on the basis of reasonable classification."

Referring to theNehru-Liaquat Ali Khan agreement signed in 1950 after the partition of Indiaand Pakistan, Shah said it was agreed to protect the rights of minorities, butonly India followed it. Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhistsfaced atrocities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

"The Bill is for thoseminorities who faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan andBangladesh," Shah said.

The Minister clarified asMuslim community was not persecuted in the three Islamic countries, the Billspecifically mentions to provide citizenship to six religious persecutedminorities.

"The people of the sixminority communities who migrated to India following religious persecution inPakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be given Indian citizenship as perthis Bill. They are being given citizenship on the basis of reasonableclassification. The Bill does not violate Article 14 of the IndianConstitution."

But, Shah said, the Bill isnot against Muslim community and that if any Muslim seeks citizenship in Indiabased on rules, he will be entertained as per the Article of the Bill.

Major opposition parties,including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party, DravidaMunnetra Kazhgam (DMK), All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) andIndian Union Muslim League (IUML), opposed the Bill citing various articles ofConstitution. As per the Bill, those illegal migrants who have entered India upto the cut-off date of December 31, 2014 to seek shelter, and continued to stayhere even if their travel documents expired or they have incomplete or nodocuments, will be eligible for Indian citizenship.

Under the existingprovisions of the Act, migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi orChristian communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh who enteredIndia without valid travel documents or if the validity of their documents hasexpired are regarded as illegal migrants and ineligible to apply for Indiancitizenship under section 5 or section 6 of the Act.

The Centre exempted thesemigrants from the adverse penal consequences of the Passport (Entry into India)Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946 and rules or orders made there undervide notifications, dated September 7, 2015 and date July 18, 2016.

Subsequently, the Centrealso made them eligible for long-term visa to stay in India as per orders datedJanuary 8, 2016 and September 14, 2016. Now, the government, through the Bill,proposes to make these migrants eligible for Indian citizenship.

"For this purpose theCentral Government or an authority specified by it, shall grant the certificateof registration or certificate of naturalisation subject to such conditions,restrictions and manner as may be prescribed," Shah said.

"Since many of them haveentered India long back, they may be given the citizenship of India from thedate of their entry in India if they fulfil conditions for Indian citizenshipspecified in section 5 or the qualifications for the naturalisation under theprovisions of the Third Schedule to the Act."

The Bill further seeks togrant immunity to the migrant of the six communities so that any proceedingsagainst them regarding in respect of their status of migration or citizenshipdoes not bar them from applying for Indian citizenship.

The Bill proposes themigrants of the six minority communities of the three countries will beeligible for citizenship by naturalisation if they can establish theirresidency in India for five years instead of the existing eleven years.

It is also proposed in theBill to empower the Central government to cancel registration as OverseasCitizen of India Card holder in case of violation of any provisions of the Actor any other law for the time being in force. It is proposed to provide theopportunity of being heard to the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder beforethe cancellation of the Overseas Citizen of India Card.

The Bill further seeks toprotect the constitutional guarantee given to indigenous populations ofnortheastern states covered under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution andthe statutory protection given to areas covered under "The Inner Line" systemof the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

Objecting to theintroduction of the Bill, leader of the Congress party, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury,said he did not have any qualms in describing the Bill as a regressive which isagainst minorities of the country. He said the proposed law violated thepreamble of the Constitution which seeks to establish India as a social andsecular republic as envisioned by framers of the Constitution and the firstPrime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

"It is a veryunconstitutional legislation," he said, adding the concept of citizenshipcannot be read in isolation but in alignment with various provisions thatguarantee fundamental rights without any discrimination on the basis of religion.

TMC's Saugata Roy recalledthat the Home Minister had said in Parliament at the time of abrogation of Art370 from Jammu and Kashmir that it will be "one law, one nation" in the countrybut now "you are bringing a law which is different for different religions andregions".

"The Bill is divisive andunconstitutional and is in violation of Art 14 which provides for equality toall citizens," he added.

Congress's Shashi Tharoorsaid the Bill was an assault on the fundamental rights of the people of the countryas religion was the determinant of the legislation. AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisisaid secularism is the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill wasarbitrary in nature and was in violation of fundamental rights.

"The Home Minister shouldbe prevented from carrying out this enactment. Otherwise, he will be comparedwith David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the Jewist State of Israel, and Hitler,"he said.

RSP's N.K. Premachandransaid he opposes the Bill on grounds of its legislative competence as it was inviolation of the preamble of the Constitution. "Religion is the main factor inthe legislation which is in violation of Art 14 of the Constitution." He saidhe was sure the courts will strike down this law.

P.K. Kunhalikutty and E.T.AMohd Basheer of IUML said Muslims were being discriminated against and the Billwas unconstitutional.

Shah said the Bill does notname Muslims, but Kutty said it was only being technically correct, but themessage was Muslims will not be given citizenship.


Union Home Minister AmitShah on Monday launched a scathing attack on the Congress, accusing it ofdividing India on the basis of religion. He said the move made at the time ofpartition now led the government to bring Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019."If the Congress had not divided the country on the basis of religion whenIndia got freedom, there was no need to bring the (Citizenship Amendment)Bill," Shah said.

The Minister accused thegrand old party of "dividing the county on the basis of religion duringpartition".

On a specific objection raised by the opposition on Jammu and Kashmir, Shah alleged "you don't consider Kashmir as part of India." (With inputs from agencies)

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