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At the stroke of midnight, Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Amendment Bill

The opposition says the Bill violates the Constitution

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Amit Shah
Union Home Ministers Amit Shah

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) with 311 in favour and 80 against. The Bill is likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. In his reply to over six-hour-long debate on the Bill, Union Home Minister insisted that the proposed law does not discriminate against Indian Muslims but aimed at protecting continued persecution of in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. He said the Bill was a result of the failure of the 1950 Nehru-Liaquat pact. The home minister said there is a distinction between illegal immigrants and refugees. Members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left parties and others disputed this, terming it divisive and that it was a ‘trap’ and inextricably linked to the Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise, which has ‘failed’ in Assam. Shah said there was no linkage, and only those indulging in “vote bank politics” were thinking of it as a trap. He accused “some parties” of creating an “atmosphere of fear”. “We are very clear that we will carry out the NRC. This is not a ‘background’ for it, our manifesto is the background,” Shah said. AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi said the Bill was a “conspiracy to make Muslims stateless”, and ripped a copy of the Bill to highlight his protest. Members from the treasury benches said Owaisi had insulted Parliament. Opposition members said the Bill violated the Constitution, especially equality before law enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution. The Congress resolved to move the Supreme Court once Parliament passes the Bill. Trinamool’s Abhishek Banerjee said the West Bengal government would not allow NRC in the state. Shah disagreed that it was uncosntitutional, pointing out that the Bill would grant citizenship to “persecuted minorities” in theocratic states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

He said Muslims were not covered since they were not a minority in these three countries. Shah sought to assure the that the government was committed to give security and equal rights to all citizens. MPs from regional parties in the Northeast supported the Bill, demanded that their respective states be kept out of the purview of the proposed law. At the time of initiating the discussion on the Bill, Shah assured that Inner Line Permit would be extended to Manipur as well. Subsequent to this, the Manipur shutdown call was withdrawn. However, there were protests across Northeast, particularly Assam. However, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha said it opposed the Bill since no protection had been assured to the state, which merged into the Indian union in 1975. Shah said existing laws gave protection to people of Sikkim. To DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran asking why refugees from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the Maldives, and Nepal are not covered, Shah said Rohingya refugees were not acceptable, but indicated that special provisions could be made for refugees from Sri Lanka. Congress’ Shashi Tharoor said the passage of the Bill would mark the victory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s thinking over Mahatma Gandhi’s. “You cannot say you reject Pakistan by supporting the ideology of Pakistan,” he said. Shah pointed to decline in the number of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan since Partition as evidence of persecution of Hindus in these countries. He said the population of Hindus declined from 84 per cent in 1947 to 79 per cent in India.

"We will have to differentiate between intruders and refugees. Citizenship Amendment Bill does not discriminate against anyone and does not snatch anyone's rights” Amit Shah, Home minister

First Published: Tue, December 10 2019. 00:16 IST
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