With a majority of 125 is to 99 the Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Wednesday after a marathon debate that extended for more than six hours. The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to provide citizenship to religious minorities-namely Hindus, Sikh, Jain, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians-who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh on or before December 31, 2014.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday and will now go to the Rashtrapati Bhavan for President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent. The Citizenship Amendment Bill has triggered protests in various states in the Northeast. Curfew has been imposed in Guwahati, Assam, till indefinite time to control deteriorating law and order situation, amid massive protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
On Wednesday, responding to objections raised by the Opposition parties, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Rajya Sabha that Article 14 of the Constitution (which talks of equality before law) does not stop Parliament from making laws with reasonable restrictions. “We are giving Indian citizenship to a class and not anyone in particular,” Amit Shah said.
On the Opposition’s questions about why Muslims have been excluded from the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Amit Shah said, “I am surprised that the people aren’t appreciating the fact that six religions are included in the bill but are raising questions on Muslims have been left out.”
“Muslims have been excluded in this bill because it covers only those minorities who were persecuted on grounds of religion in these countries. The state religion of these countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh) is Islam and there is hardly any chance of Muslims being persecuted on religious grounds. But even if there is any Muslim in these countries who feels persecuted, he/she can apply for Indian citizenship in the ordinary manner. In the past five years, the Narendra Modi government has granted Indian citizenship to 566 Muslims from these countries.”
Speaking in defence of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Amit Shah said this Bill was necessitated because the country was partitioned in 1947 on religious grounds. “Had the country not been partitioned on religious ground, the Bill would not have been required,” Amit Shah said. Responding to the concerns raised by people in Assam, Amit Shah said, “I assure the people of Assam that the government will take care of their culture and linguistic identities.” Amit Shah also told the House that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will not affect the rights enjoyed by Sikkim under Article 371. “There will be no dilution of Sikkim’s rights,” he said.
Hitting out at the Congress party for opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Amit Shah said, “The statement given by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the statements given by the Congress party are same. The statements that Pakistan PM gave on surgical strikes, airstrikes and Article 370 were the same as the ones given by the Congress party.”
On Tuesday, Imran Khan in a tweet said: “We strongly condemn Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation which violates all norms of international human rights law and bilateral agreements with Pakistan. It is part of the RSS ‘Hindu Rashtra’ design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi Govt.”
PROTESTS IN ASSAM
Tens of thousands of protesters against the CAB descended on the streets of Assam, clashing with police and plunging the state into chaos of a magnitude unseen since the violent six-year movement by students that ended with the signing of the Assam accord.
Though no party or student body has called a shutdown, protesters, a majority of them students, fought pitched battles with security forces in the restive state, including in front of the secretariat, the seat of the BJP government.
Police fired tear gas shells and baton-charged protesters, who fought back. The volatile situation has led to the administration placing restrictions on internet and imposing curfews in certain areas.
Major parties that supported CitizenshipBill were BJP, BJD, YSRCP, JDU, AIADMK, Shivsena, BSP, TDP, SAD & LJP. While the parties that opposed CAB were INC, DMK, CPM, AIMIM, AAP, TRS, NCP, SP, TMC, RJD & IUML. However, After clearing in Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha, this Bill is all set to become an Act.