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Parliament passes Citizenship(Amendment) bill, 2019; awaits Presidential assent

Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, while protests raged in Assam and Tripura.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 12, 2019, 07.09 AM IST
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Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in Rajya Sabha
Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in Rajya Sabha
NEW DELHI: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which provides a path to Indian citizenship for persons belonging to religious minority groups persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, was passed by Parliament on Wednesday, with the Rajya Sabha voting 125-99 in favour of the Bill.

The passage came amidst largescale protests in Assam, where the military had to be called in to control protesting crowds, despite assurances from the Centre that special measures will be taken under clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord to address Assamese concerns. The Lok Sabha had approved the Bill by a significant majority on Monday.

During the debate in the Upper House, home minister Amit Shah emphasised that the Bill was not aimed at alienating Indian Muslims and remarks by some parties that their citizenship will be affected is completely false. “The citizenship of Muslims of India has no connection with this Bill. This is a Bill meant to grant citizenship, not take it (away),” said Shah.

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Sena Walks Out, JDU Backs Bill
He further said that Muslims in India had “no need to fear” and the Bill is aimed at giving, not taking away, citizenship. “This country will never become Muslim-Mukt (free of Muslims),” he said, referring to the charge made by Javed Ali Khan (SP) that the Bill will lead to such a scenario.

The Bill states that Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have migrated to India before December 31, 2014 and have lived here for five years will be eligible for citizenship.

While the BJP's erstwhile ally Shiv Sena, which has three members, staged a walkout when the Bill was put to vote, JDU stuck to its stand of supporting the Bill as its six members voted in favour. BJD (7), AIAMDK (11), SAD (3), YSRCP (2), some of the Independents and Nominated members voted in favour of the Bill.

Shah focused most of his replies on the Congress, alleging that it was responsible for the partition of the country as it accepted the two-nation theory propounded by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He charged Congress leaders with speaking the same language as that of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The home minister assured the north-east states that their rights will be protected and the new law will not have an impact on them.

“This Bill would never have been brought in Parliament if the country had not been divided. I have brought this Bill to deal with the situation that has developed due to partition. If the previous governments had brought the solutions then this Bill would not have to be tabled,” Shah said.

Justifying the need for this Bill to give citizenship to minorities from the three countries on account of persecution, Shah said the Nehru-Liaquat pact of 1950 that said India and Pakistan will give equal rights to minorities in their country to engage in any profession, freedom of expression and practice their religion had not been implemented by the neighbouring country.

“There is no appreciation of the fact that people from six religions have been included. But, the focus is only on why Muslims are not included,” he said.

Recent measures such as the abrogation of Article 370 that had conferred special status to Jammu and Kashmir, banning triple talaq and the CAB Bill were not targeting Muslims, he reiterated.

The minister cleared the air on Sri Lankan Tamils and the refuge given to those Indians who fled Uganda earlier.

Some remarks made by the home minister drew protests from the Opposition benches. Shah said India was a thriving democracy where both Houses of Parliament functioned well, barring the period of Emergency. He took digs at former NDA partner Shiv Sena, asking what had transpired in one night that had made the party change its stand and oppose the Bill in Rajya Sabha.
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