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Amit Shah tables Citizenship Amendment Bill in LS amid oppn uproar, says it’s not against minorities

The bill to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

SNS Web | New Delhi |

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday tabled the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Lok Sabha on Monday, amid uproar by Opposition.

Introducing the same, Amit Shah said the Citizenship Amendment Bill is not against minorities and that he will answer on each aspect of the bill in the house as the Congress termed it “unconstitutional”.

Opposing the bill, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said it is nothing but a “targeted legislation over the minority people” of the country. To this, the Home Minister replied that the bill is not even .001 per cent against minorities.

Shah further said that he will answer all questions on the bill while asking the Opposition to not walk out of the House then.

The TMC also opposed the bill, calling it “divisive and unconstitutional”. “This law violates Article 14 of the Constitution and is against everything our founding fathers, including Dr Ambedkar, envisioned,” TMC MP Saugata Roy said in Lok Sabha.

Amit Shah then took a dig at the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government citing Article 14.

“When Indira Gandhi cited Article 14 to bring in people from Bangladesh, then why not Pakistan. Even people from Uganda from taken in. Why not UK? Over the years, India has absorbed so many people from around the world. But it’s not the case elsewhere. Look at US green card; it’s got such strict norms,” said Amit Shah while speaking on the Citizenship Bill.

“Three neighbouring countries of India — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — state in their Constitution that Islam is their law of land. During partition, Nehru-Liaqat agreement was signed to safeguard the rights of the minorities. The agreement was fulfilled properly in India but not elsewhere, due to which Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians were ill-treated,” he further said.

This statement led to a ruckus in the Lok Sabha, to which the Home Minister replied that the “BJP didn’t divide the country but Congress did”.

“This bill does not say that it will take away the rights of Muslim people. Congress divided this country on the basis of religion. This is the reason we need this Bill,” he said.

Following the debate, the Lok Sabha voted in favour of tabling the contentious bill with 293 votes supporting it while 82 opposing the bill.

The bill to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

If the bill is passed in the Parliament, it will amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 that requires applicants to have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The amendment seeks to relax this requirement from 11 years to 6 years.

Minority outfits too have lashed out against the Bill for leaving out Muslims and also on the ground that it is at odds with the Constitution, which does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith.

The CAB has drawn opposition from various quarters, especially from Northeast leaders.

In Assam, the proposed amendment has raised concern as the local leaders believe it will nullify the 1985 Assam Accord, which set March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Mizoram leaders are opposing the CAB on the ground that it would make Buddhist Chakma refugees Indian citizens. Even people from Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have opposed the proposed legislation.

In order to make the locals of northeast region safe and not feel disturbed by the citizenship of these illegal migrants, as many locals feel that the permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region’s demography, the government has made provisions under which the Bill will not be applicable in the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

It will also not be applicable to those tribal regions that are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Union Cabinet had on Wednesday approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution in these neighbouring countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had last week asked BJP MPs to be present in large numbers in the Parliament when the Home Minister tables the bill as he asserted that this draft legislation is as important as the move to abrogate Article 370.