The Indian parliament has passed the much controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 or CAB. It has finally been cleared by both houses of Indian parliament and will go to the President of India for his assent before it becomes the law. Under this new law – persecuted minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists or Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will be able to claim fast-tracked refuge in India.
After the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house in the Indian parliament) where the BJP enjoys solid majority, it was supported by the Shiv Sena (its former ally in Maharashtra). And before the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP does not have majority and required other parties to support it, the Shiv Sena imposed to conditions as amendments to the Bill:
- That the people getting Indian Citizenship under the Bill will not be able to vote for 25 years; and
- Sri Lanka should be added to the list of three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan as the source countries of people seeking refuge in India.
Earlier in the Lok Sabha, during the debate, AIMIM president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi tore a copy of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha, saying that the Bill tries to divide the country.
At this latest position adopted by the Shiv Sena, Asaddudin Owaisi said the party (Shiv Sena) was engaging in ‘Bhangra’ Politics.
In the end, PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah managed the numbers without requiring the Shiv Sena’s 3 members (who, at the time of voting were not in the house) to vote for it. In the Rajya Sabha, 125 MPs voted for the citizenship bill, while 105 voted against it. Besides BJP(83), its allies such as JD-U (6) and SAD(3), the legislation was supported by other parties including AIADMK(11), BJD(7), TDP(2) and YSR-Congress(2).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday hailed the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Rajya Sabha as a “landmark day for India and its ethos of compassion and brotherhood”.
“A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood! Glad that the #CAB2019 has been passed in the #RajyaSabha. Gratitude to all the MPs who voted in favour of the Bill. This Bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years,” PM Modi tweeted shortly after CAB was passed in the Rajya Sabha.
A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood!
This Bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 11, 2019
Replying to a vigorous six-and-a-half-hour debate on the bill, Home Minister Amit Shah said the legislation seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities in the three countries and not take away citizenship of anyone.
Shah rejected the Opposition charge that the bill was anti- Muslims. He said they had nothing to fear.
“Citizenship of Indian Muslims is not being taken away.” “Citizenship bill is not to snatch anyone’s Indian citizenship. Muslims have no need to fear or worry,” he said.
Amit Shah wrote in a tweet:
As the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 passes in the Parliament, the dreams of crores of deprived & victimised people has come true today. Grateful to PM @narendramodi ji for his resolve to ensure dignity and safety for these affected people. I thank everyone for their support.
Also read: Is CAB cherry-picking of people in distress
It is to be noted that under the UPA (Congress led) government, India gave citizenship to 13,000 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan. There was never been a word about Muslims suffering in Pakistan and needing refuge in India. Using this opportunity to attack the Congress double speak on that, Shah said the bill will correct the wrong done by the partition of the country on religious lines.
A distraught Sonia Gandhi, using the Congress Twitter handle tweeted a long statement.
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 11, 2019
It is to be noted the Congress or any other party has not made any commitment to revoke or repeal the bill, if and when they come to power.
Rejecting vehemently the allegation that the Bill violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India, Shah said it does not prohibit laws based on reasonable classification.
Shah and Modi’s answer to not include Muslims in the Bill is that the proposed law is for persecuted minorities in the three stipulated mainly Muslim countries.
Continuing his opposition to the Bill, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted that the Bill provides privileges to “ foreigners over Indians SOLELY because they’re non-Muslim. India is my home. Don’t be so delusional that you think you will instil fear in us.”
A very spirited challenge to the Bill in the Supreme Court of India is the next step for those in the opposition to the Bill.
There were attempts made by the Opposition parties to send the Bill to a select committee of the House. Those attempts were defeated 124 to 99.
Similarly the House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members to the bill. The Bill, which was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday, 9 December, will now go to the President for his assent.