Rajya Sabha on Wednesday approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, completing the legislative procedure for giving Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Replying to asix-and-a-half-hour debate on the bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said thelegislation seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities in the threecountries and not take away citizenship of anyone.
He rejected theOpposition charge that the bill was against Muslims and said they have nothingto fear.
The Bill was passedwith 125 votes in favour and 105 against it. Besides BJP, its allies such asJD-U and SAD, the legislation was supported by AIADMK, BJD, TDP andYSR-Congress.
Earlier the Houserejected motions to send the bill to a select committee of the House with 124members voting against it as compared to 99 in its favour.
The House alsorejected several amendments moved by opposition members to the Bill, most byvoice vote.
The Bill was passedby Lok Sabha on Monday. It will now go to the President for his assent.
On why persecutedminorities from countries such as Sri Lanka were not part of the legislation,Shah said Tamils from the island country had been given Indian citizenship inpast and the present law is to tackle a specific problem.
To repeatedquestions from opposition of Muslims being left out, he said Muslims from othercountries have the right to apply for Indian citizenship as per existing rules.As many as 566 Muslims have been given citizenship, he said.
He attackedopposition the Congress saying statements by the party's leaders match those ofPakistani leaders on not just the citizenship bill but also on scrapping ofArticle 370.
Asserting thatneither the citizenship bill, nor the previously passed legislation makingpractice of triple talaq punishable and the scrapping Article 370 areanti-Muslim, he said the present legislation is to give citizenship and doesnot to take away citizenship of anyone.
Indian Muslims arecitizens of the country and will remain so, he said. "Citizenship ofIndian Muslims is not being taken away."
"Citizenshipbill is not to snatch anyone's Indian citizenship. Muslims have no need to fearor worry," he said.
Shah said the billseeks to correct the wrong done by the partition of the country on religiouslines. He went on to attack the Congress for alleged double speak on the issue,saying the party had during its rule given Indian citizenship to 13,000 Hindusand Sikhs from Pakistan without raising a word about the same for othercommunities.
He also said thebill does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution as it does not prohibitlaws based on reasonable classification.
Shah asked theOpposition if citizenship should also be granted to the Muslims coming fromPakistan.
"What do youwant? Should we give citizenship to the Muslims coming from Pakistan?"said Shah, adding: "How will the country run like this?
Shah said: "People following, Hinduism, Jainism, Parsi, Sikhism coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are persecuted in these countries. This Bill will safeguard the dignity and life of these people."