New Delhi, Dec 11 (ANI): The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill smoothly sailed through Parliament after the Rajya Sabha passed it on Wednesday.
Home Minister Amit Shah said the Bill will give a new ray of hope to non-Muslims who migrated to India due to religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. As many as 125 members of the Upper House voted in favour of the Bill while 105 MPs voted against the Bill. The Shiv Sena did not participate in the voting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the passage of the Bill as ‘a landmark day’ in the history of India. However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi termed the occasion as the ‘victory of bigoted forces.’
The Bill, which grants citizenship to the non-Muslims who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, was approved by the Lok Sabha on Monday night with a majority of 311 votes against 80 votes where 391 members were present and voting.
Introducing the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Shah reiterated that the Bill is not against any minorities in India and the rights of each Indian citizen will be equally protected.
He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi government is committed to protecting the rights of each citizen of the country.
Replying to the debate, Shah said that the Bill is aimed at giving a dignified life to these people who had suffered religious persecution for decades by granting Indian citizenship to them if they fulfil conditions for the grant of citizenship.
The Home Minister said that grant of citizenship will be from the date and year of the entry into India and all the cases and legal proceedings against them would be closed, besides protecting their business and trade interests on an equal footing.
Shah said even if the passports and visas of these minorities had expired, they would not be treated as illegal.
The Home Minister said that no illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay in the country at any cost. He also underlined that the population of minorities in the Islamic States of Pakistan and Bangladesh had reduced considerably over the years, as they were either killed or forced to change their religion, and thus were forced to flee to India.
He said that partition of India on religious lines and subsequent failure of the Nehru-Liaqat pact of 1950 in protecting the rights and dignity of the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh are the reasons for bringing this Bill.
“Had this Bill come 50 years ago, this situation would not have arisen. The biggest mistake in history was the partition of India on religious lines. The CAB was in our manifesto and the people gave us a resounding mandate in 2019, thus it is the solemn resolve of this Government to fulfil its commitment,” he said.
Responding to the questions on why only three countries were considered and why Muslims were not included in the Bill, Shah said that at different points of time in the past, citizenship had been given to refugees coming from countries like Uganda, and Sri Lanka.
“Then, refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were not considered. The process of awarding citizenship to refugees has been undertaken by different governments in the past on case to case basis from time to time, on reasonable qualifications to Article 14. This time the case of refugees fleeing religious persecution from these three countries has been considered through this Bill, which is not unconstitutional,” he said.
Shah said that there was no political agenda behind this Bill, as the government is only concentrating on ending the sufferings of lakhs of persecuted refugees fleeing these three countries.
The government had brought this Bill in 2015 also but could not get it passed. Hence, it is clear the bill has never been brought by the government with any intention of gaining political mileage in an upcoming election.
“Neither is the definition of secularism narrow. The Modi government sees this issue holistically. All the minority communities being persecuted on religious lines in these countries have been included. Muslims are not included as they do not face religious persecution in these Islamic countries,” he said.
Allaying the apprehensions of the people of North-Eastern regions, the Home Minister said that the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of the region would be preserved and this Bill contains the solution to the problems of the people of these states, as amendments have been incorporated after marathon deliberations with various stakeholders from North East for last one month.
Shah said that the provisions of the amendments to the Act would not apply to Tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inner Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
He informed that Manipur has been brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime through a Gazette Notification today. The Bill also seeks to amend the Third Schedule to the Act to make applicants belonging to the said communities from the aforesaid countries eligible for citizenship by naturalisation if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of the existing 11 years.
The Home Minister said that this Bill contains provisions to grant Citizenship on reasonable grounds to refugees facing religious persecution in the above three countries, which in no way go against any provision under the Constitution of India and does not violate Article 14. He also reassured that no provision of Article 371 would be violated by this Bill.
Talking about another amendment to the Act, Shah informed that the Bill seeks to amend section 7D so as to empower the Central government to cancel registration as Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder, after providing a reasonable opportunity of being heard, in case of violation of any provisions of the Citizenship Act or any other law for the time being in force.
The Home Minister replied to all the arguments of Members that the bill is arbitrary, as he expressed confidence in the fact that the Bill if challenged in the court of law, would stand the scrutiny and also the test of times to come.
Expressing happiness over the passage of the Bill, Shah tweeted: “As the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 passes in the Parliament, the dreams of crores of deprived & victimised people has come true today.”