After getting the bill passed in the Lok Sabha, Union Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha and referred to the NDA’s manifesto promise before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Shah said that the manifesto of the BJP and its allies clearly mentioned the bill and the country voted for the party on the basis of the promises made in the manifesto. “The people of the country supported this decision.”
The 2019 ‘Sankalp Patra’ by the BJP said the following with respect to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill:
We are committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution. We will make all efforts to clarify the issues to the sections of population from the Northeastern states who have expressed apprehensions regarding the legislation. We reiterate our commitment to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India.
The manifesto did not explicitly mention the neighbouring countries.
Further, the Home Minister said there’s a misconception that the bill is against the Muslim community. “No Muslim in India needs to worry about this bill,” he said while adding that there is no discussion about the Indian Muslims in this bill.
“Muslims in the country are and will remain the citizens of the country. They need not fear anything. But should we make Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indian citizens? That’s not how the country is run. This bill is for a specific group — minorities from neighbouring nations,” he added.
Opposition parties have vociferously criticised the bill as a violation of the right to equality guaranteed India’s Constitution.
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha around midnight on Monday with 311 members voting in favour and 80 against it.
According to the proposed legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
While introducing the bill in the Lower House, Shah had said that the bill is “not even .001% against minorities in the country”. He added that to understand the bill, there’s a need to look carefully at the Constitutions of the three countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Article 2 states in The Constitution of Afghanistan, he said, that Islam is the religion of the country and there are similar provisions in the Constitutions of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
He said that because “Muslims are in majority in these three countries, applying for citizenship on the grounds of religious persecution is out of the question.”
If a Muslim from these three countries applies for citizenship, it will be considered with an open mind, he said, while adding, “The person, however, won’t get benefit of this amendment as the person has not faced religious persecution.”
(With PTI inputs)