No political agenda behind Bill: Shah

No political agenda behind Bill: Shah
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Highlights

Asserting that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has endorsement of India's 130 crore nationals, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday introduced the controversial Bill in the Lok Sabha after heated debate followed by division of votes, forced by Opposition members who dubbed it as "unconstitutional".

New Delhi: Asserting that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has endorsement of India's 130 crore nationals, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday introduced the controversial Bill in the Lok Sabha after heated debate followed by division of votes, forced by Opposition members who dubbed it as "unconstitutional".

Opposition leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Saugata Roy, N K Premchandran, Gaurav Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor and Asaduddin Owaisi opposed the Bill, which seeks to give citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there, saying it was violative of various provisions of the Constitution, including move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.

While defending the Bill, Shah said the Congress had "divided" the country on the basis of religion that is why it was necessary to bring the Bill and added that it was brought on the basis of reasonable classifications provided under the Constitution.

The tabling of the emotive Bill comes even as there were protests and incidents of violence in northeastern states with most of the student unions and regional political parties opposing it, saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Rejecting suggestions that the Bill is anti-Muslim, Shah said the measure has the endorsement of 130 crore citizens of the country as it was the part of the BJP manifesto in 2014 as well as 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

"We will have to differentiate between intruders and refugees. Citizenship Amendment Bill does not discriminate against anyone and does not snatch anyone's rights," Shah said while initiating the debate on the Bill.

The Home Minister said under the proposed legislation, citizenship will be granted to refugees coming from the three countries after facing religious persecution there even without documents, including ration cards.

Noting that India has given similar rights to people in the past, Shah said Manmohan Singh and L K Advani could become prime minister and deputy prime minister, respectively, due to this after they came from present day Pakistan. "This bill is not even .001 per cent against Muslims. It is against infiltrators," he said.

During the debate, which was marked by heated arguments, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also tore the bill, saying it was aimed at making Muslims "stateless" and will lead to another partition.

According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

Opposing the Bill, Congress MP Manish Tewari said the Bill is "unconstitutional" and "contrary to the spirit of the Constitution which is secular".

"The bill is against the Constitution, against the spirit of Constitution and against the ideology propounded by Babasaheb Ambedkar," Tewari said.

Supporting the bill, BJP MP Rajender Agarwal said the country cannot ignore the suffering of the people who have come here after facing religious persecution. He said Pakistan has failed to protect its minorities under the Nehru-Liaquat pact.

While NDA allies the JD(U) and the LJP extended support to the Bill, fence sitters, including the BJD and the YSRCP also supported the Bill while suggesting that Muslims should also be included in the Bill.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the NRC and the CAB will never be allowed in Bengal as long as the TMC is in power.

The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the Bill in its previous tenure and got Lok Sabha's approval. But it did not introduce it in the Rajya Sabha, apparently due to vehement protests in the northeast and lack of majority in the House. That Bill lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.

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