Replying to a six-and-a-half-hour debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah Wednesday categorically rejected the Opposition’s charge that the contentious legislation was anti-Muslim. He also castigated the Congress, saying the need to bring this Bill would not have arisen had Partition not taken place “on the basis of religion”.
“Partition on the basis of religion was the biggest mistake. The issue arising out of it was not resolved by subsequent governments,” Shah told the Upper House.
Buttressing his point, Shah argued that the Bill does not take away the citizenship of any Indian Muslim and that it only seeks to give the same to persecuted minorities of three neighbouring countries. He asserted that neither citizenship bill nor triple talaq nor scrapping Article 370 are anti-Muslim.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014, was passed in the Rajya Sabha after the heated debate, with 125 votes in favour and 105 against it.
“Muslims have no need to fear or worry. The Bill is not to snatch anyone’s Indian citizenship. They (Muslims) are not included because the proposed law is for persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan,” Shah told the Upper House. “We have included six religions. There is no appreciation. The only focus is on Muslims…. Are Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan minorities…. Isn’t it secularism?”
“Will it be secularism only if Muslims are included. As per your definition, only if Muslims come, then it will be secularism,” Shah said, adding that in the last five years, over 500 Muslims have been accorded Indian citizenship.
Countering the Opposition’s charge on why Sri Lankan Tamils are excluded from the Bill, Shah said, “8-9 lakh Tamils from Sri Lanka were given Indian citizenship in the past and now the law is being made to address problems from three other nations.”
He further said Article 14 of the Constitution does not prohibit Parliament from making laws in this regard if there is reasonable classification.
Earlier in the day, veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram had called the Bill ‘insidious’ and said that the central government was ramming through the contentious Bill to “advance its Hindutva agenda”.
Even as protests flared up in various parts of the North-East over the Bill, the Home Minister maintained that the government was committed to preserving the language and culture of Assam. Allaying apprehensions, Shah also said no one will have to go to a detention camp once the Bill becomes the law.
He added that Muslims from other countries will have the right to apply for the Indian citizenship.
(with PTI inputs)