Introducing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on Monday amid vociferous protests by Opposition parties, Home Minister Amit Shah mounted a stinging attack on Congress, blaming the party for dividing India on religious lines during Partition.
The Opposition has insisted that the Bill, which seeks to make citizenship easier for refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution (leaving out only Muslims), discriminated against people on the basis of religion.
“It was the Congress who discriminated between Hindu and Muslim refugees. The claims that this Bill has taken away the rights of the Muslims are wrong. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Parsis and Jains have been discriminated against. So, this Bill will give these persecuted people citizenship,” Amit Shah said.
Raising concerns over the bill, Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said, “It is nothing but targeted legislation for the minority people of our country.” Reacting to the remarks, Amit Shah said the bill was not even “0.001% against minorities in the country”.
“Why do we need this Bill today? After Independence, had Congress not done partition on the basis of religion, then today we would have not needed this Bill. Congress did the partition on the basis of religion,” Amit Shah said amid protests from Congress MPs.
After nearly a dozen Opposition MPs spoke against the contentious bill, the Home Minister Shah assured that the legislation does not violate any of the articles in the Constitution and urged people, especially in the Northeast, to end their protest.
“The Citizenship Bill is not unconstitutional. I assure you that it does not violate any of the articles in the Constitution. Indira Gandhi gave citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh in 1971. Was her move also unconstitutional? These protests cannot continue as the government has been elected for five years, you will now have to listen to us,” Amit Shah said.
Following a nearly two-hour discussion, 293 MPs voted in favour of introducing the bill while 82 opposed. Cleared by the Cabinet last week, the Citizenship Amendment Bill provides exemptions in case of the entire Northeast except Manipur.
In effect, it exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura, but keeps all of Manipur under its ambit. To accommodate the concerns of the people in Manipur, where the Bill has triggered widespread protests, the government is said to have worked out “alternative arrangements”.