New Delhi Correspondent
The controversial constitution amendment Bill seeking to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangaldesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan was passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower House of Indian parliament on Tuesday. Moving the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Opposition that the Bill was not against the provisions of the Constitution and would give shelter and succour to persecuted religious minorities from the three neighbouring countries.
The Bill provides for conferring citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of their stay in India instead of 12 years at present even if they do not possess any document.
“They have no place to go to, except India,” Singh said, adding several leaders, including first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had favoued giving shelter to persecuted minorities in the neighouring countries.
He said although Indian leaders signed pacts with leaders of Bangladesh and Pakistan for protection of minorities but unfortunately it had not happened.
Even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while speaking as leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha had asked the then BJP-led government to be more liberal in dealing with the
issue of persecuted minorities in Bangaladesh, the Home Minister said.
Rejecting the opposition parties’ contention that Bill sought to discriminate people on the basis of religion, Singh said “anyone eligible under the provisions under the law will be accorded
Seeking to assuage the widespread concerns among tribal and ethnic groups in the Northeastern parts of India , which saw an 11-hour shutdown today, against the Bill, Singh
said the proposed law will not be Assam-specific but applicable to other parts of India.
“The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden. Government of India is committed to giving all
help to the state Government and people of Assam,” he said.
The passage of the Bill in Lok Sabh came a day after its Assam ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) quit the BJP-led Assam government, protesting against the law while saffron party’s other allies Shiv Sena and Janata Dal (United) have also opposed this legislation.
Mizoram and Meghalaya governments have opposed the Bill by adopting resolution against it in their respective cabinet meetings.
The Bill now go to the Rajya Sabha where the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance lacks majority. Since it is a constitution amendment Bill, it requires the approval of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The winter session of Rajya Sabha ends tomorrow.
The Congress said many states have opposed the Bill and it should be sent to a parliamentary select committee. As the government did not heed to the demand, the Congress staged a walkout.
Trinamool Congress lawmaker Saugata Roy dubbed the Bill as “divisive” and “insidious” that goes against the basic tenets of the constitution. “This is the worst form of vote-bank politics”, he said.