The Rajya Sabha passed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 on Wednesday amid heated debates in the Upper House. Several prominent leaders from the government and Opposition made important points to buttress their points of view. Among the most notable statements were by home minister Amit Shah, who said that Muslims have nothing to fear due to the Bill; and Congress leader P Chidambaram, who alleged that the government is "ramming through the Bill" to advance its Hindutva agenda.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
Here is what prominent leaders had to say during the debate:
Shah spoke at the beginning as well as at the end of the debate on the Rajya Sabha, as he sought to reply to the Opposition's charges and allay fears of minorities.
Moving the Bill that provides Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Shah said minorities in the three nations do not get equal rights. The population of minorities in these countries has reduced by as much as 20 percent, either by way of elimination or because they migrated to India, he said, adding that these migrants did not get rights to jobs and education.
Non-Muslim minorities from three nations who came to India after Independence will be given Indian citizenship, the home minister said, adding that Muslim migrants from the world over cannot be given citizenship.
The BJP government will protect the interests of Assamese, Shah said.
Later, addressing concerns of Opposition members, the home minister said, "This bill is to give citizenship, not to take away citizenship. The citizenship of Indian Muslims not being taken away. Neither citizenship bill, nor triple talaq bill nor bill scrapping Article 370 are anti-Muslim."
Shah further said that India can never be 'Muslim-mukt' (free from Muslims) while replying to a debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
"Javed Ali Khan (Samajwadi Party leader) said that we will become 'Muslim-mukt'. Javed Ali Sahab, this country will not be free from Muslims even if you want it to be," the home minister said.
Shah said that the Bill has been brought to rectify a historic blunder — the Partition — and give a dignified life to non-Muslims of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who fled religious persecution and settled in India before 31 December, 2014.
"Despite Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma's insistence, I would once again say that the Partition happened on the basis of religion. It was a blunder, which forced me to introduce this Bill," he said.
Shah said: "This Bill is to address the problem created by the Partition. Also, if any government would have solved the problem, there would have been no need for this Bill."
Replying to Congress MPs P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal's concerns, Shah said the Article 14 of the Constitution allows the Parliament to frame laws based on "reasonable classification" which, he said, was in the Bill.
Senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram posed six key questions to the government on the legality of the proposed law. He termed the Bill as one which provides for citizenship by "arbitrary executive fiat".
"It is a sad day that elected parliamentarians are being asked to do something unconstitutional. It is our job as the elected parliamentarians to ensure that we don't do anything, which is unconstitutional," the Congress leader was later quoted as saying by ANI.
The six questions that Chidambaram raised were —
-"Why is the government grouping together three countries — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh — and leaving out others?"
-"Why has it identified only six religious groups — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians — and left out others like Ahmadiyyas, Rohingyas and Hazaras?"
-"There are three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Why has Christianity been included, and the other two been left out?"
-"Why have Sri Lankan Hindus and Bhutanese Christians been left out?"
-"Why does the Bill address only religious persecution? Are people not persecuted for political reasons?"
-"Does the Bill violate the three fundamental elements of Article 14?
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut spoke at length about the Bill, two days after the party voted in favour of the proposed law in the Lok Sabha. However, before the voting in the Bill started in the Rajya Sabha, Raut walked out of the House.
"Lok Sabha numbers are different, the situation in the Rajya Sabha is different. The government has to reply to our queries. Vote-bank politics is not right. You (government) are trying to create a Hindu-Muslim divide in the country yet again, leave it," Raut told reporters on the Parliament premises.
He asserted that the current stand of the Sena was not due to pressure from the Congress or any other party. "No one can exert pressure on us, what is in our hearts, is on our lips," he said.
Raut also said the Citizenship Bill raised issues not of "politics", but about "humanity".
"You are talking of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, not of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The situation of the Hindus in Nepal is much worse with infiltration from China and Pakistan in the region.
"The Hindus cannot even acknowledge the fact that they are Hindus. So, it is not about politics, but humanity. And humanity does not have any religion," he said.
In the Rajya Sabha, Raut said, "We do not need any certificate on our nationalism or our Hindutva. We (Shiv Sena) are the headmaster of the school in which you (BJP) are a student. Our headmasters include Balasaheb Thackeray, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Syama Prasad Mukerjee."
Raut asked whether infiltrators would get thrown out due to the Bill, and asked whether refugees would get voting rights.
Manoj Kumar Jha
RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha said that if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was to be passed in the Rajya Sabha and became a law, there would be "mourning in the heavens".
He said, "Earlier, it was suggested by experts that the word 'religion' should be dropped from the bill and 'persecuted minority' should be used in its place. This suggestion was set aside for no reason."
Addressing Shah, Jha was quoted by The Indian Express as saying, "I am sitting in your Opposition, but that does not make me your enemy. I beseech you, in the name of the Constitution, think once. You might be committing a great blunder. A state that persecutes does not differentiate between A, B, and C. Mr Chidambaram also said persecution is of many types, mostly on the basis of political belief. And there is no place for atheists as well."
"This bill is unintelligent and unreasonable classification. NRC and CAB are not different. What will you do about stateless citizens? I plead to you to use your majority in a better way, don't misuse it," he added.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2019 21:12:55 IST