Friday, 28 February 2020

Citizenship Amendment Bill sails through Lok Sabha

Updated: December 10, 2019 10:00 am
Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 after a marathon discussion and division last night. In all, 311 members voted in favour of the bill and 80 members opposed it.

The bill, among other things, seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians who migrated to India till the end of 2014 from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, due to reasons like persecutions. However, the bill exempts certain tribal areas included in the Sixth Schedule and those falling under the Inner Line Permit Regime in the North Eastern States. It amends the Citizenship Act 1955, the Passport Act 1920 and the Foreigners Act 1946 for implementation of its provisions.

Replying to the discussion, Home Minister Amit Shah said, the bill does not violate any provisions of the Constitution including Article 14 that places all people equally before law. He said, Article 14 does not rule out any amendment to the Citizens Act. Mr Shah reiterated that religious persecutions in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have expressly declared Islam as their State Religion, necessitated the bill. He pointed out to the declining minority population in the three neighbouring countries. He said, the bill is not discriminatory against Muslims. He added, Manipur will be brought under the Inner Line Permit Regime for the Bill.

When the Opposition interrupted the Home Minister repeatedly asking why the bill has been brought in now, he said, it was necessitated due to the division of India on the basis of religion. He reiterated that no minority community in India is targeted in the bill. Referring to Sri Lankan Tamils, he said, lakhs of them were granted Indian citizenship as per the Lal Bahadur Shastri-Sirimao Bandaranaike accord. He noted that all North Eastern states have supported the bill and their concerns have been addressed. He re-emphasized that the NRC will be brought about at all costs.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, Mr Manish Tewari of Congress called the bill a monumental blunder, violating Article 14 of the Constitution.

Mr Rajendra Agarwal of BJP accused the Congress of opposing the bill by using selective interpretation of secularism with vote bank politics in mind.

Mr Rajiv Ranjan Singh of the JD(U) supported the bill saying, the minorities from the neighbouring countries had to migrate to India illegally only due to persecution, though they also contributed to the freedom struggle before the partition. Mr Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK asked why Sri Lankan Tamils are excluded from the purview of the bill. Ms Supriya Sule of the NCP said Muslims are feeling insecure.

Mr Venkatesan of the CPIM said the bill is against the basic framework of the Constitution while Mr Subbarayan of the CPI said the bill discriminates on the basis of religion.

Mr Abhishek Banerjee of AITC said, religious or cultural identities cannot be a factor in deciding on citizenship and Mr N K Premachandran of the RSP also echoed the same view.

Mr Midhun Reddy of the YSR Congress Party supported the bill with the demand that the states should also be taken into confidence in the implementation of the law.

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