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 a six-and-a-half-hour debate on the bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the legislation seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities in the three countries and not take away citizenship of anyone.
He rejected the Opposition charge that the bill was against Muslims and said they have nothing to fear.
The Bill was passed with 125 votes in favour and 105 against it. Besides BJP, its allies such as JD-U and SAD, the legislation was supported by AIADMK, BJD, TDP and YSR-Congress.
Earlier the House rejected motions to send the bill to a select committee of the House with 124 members voting against it as compared to 99 in its favour.
The House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members to the Bill, most by voice vote.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday. It will now go to the President for his assent.
On why persecuted minorities from countries such as Sri Lanka were not part of the legislation, Shah said Tamils from the island country had been given Indian citizenship in past and the present law is to tackle a specific problem.
To repeated questions from opposition of Muslims being left out, he said Muslims from other countries have the right to apply for Indian citizenship as per existing rules. As many as 566 Muslims have been given citizenship, he said.
He attacked opposition the Congress saying statements by the party’s leaders match those of Pakistani leaders on not just the citizenship bill but also on scrapping of Article 370.
Asserting that neither the citizenship bill, nor the previously passed legislation making practice of triple talaq punishable and the scrapping Article 370 are anti-Muslim, he said the present legislation is to give citizenship and does not to take away citizenship of anyone.
Indian Muslims are citizens of the country and will remain so, he said. “Citizenship of Indian Muslims is not being taken away.”
“Citizenship bill is not to snatch anyone’s Indian citizenship. Muslims have no need to fear or worry,” he said.
Shah said the bill seeks to correct the wrong done by the partition of the country on religious lines. 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 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan without raising a word about the same for other communities.
He also said the bill does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution as it does not prohibit laws based on reasonable classification.
Shah asked the Opposition if citizenship should also be granted to the Muslims coming from Pakistan.
“What do you want? 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.”