Citizenship Amendment Bill introduced in Lok Sabha; Opposition calls it unconstitutional
Opposition leaders protested the introduction of the Bill saying that it is 'unconstitutional'
The Lok Sabha on Monday voted to introduce the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amid massive uproar from opposition parties. Tabled by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Opposition parties led by Congress were against the introduction of the bill saying that it violated several articles of the constitution.
While 293 members of Lok Sabha voted in favour of introducing the Bill, 82 voted against it.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury began the debate by asking the Home Minister if he liked the constitution; and went on to say that the bill is "regressive and targeted legislation, which targets minorities".
Response from Home Minister
Responding to Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Home Minister Shah said that the Bill was “not even 0.001% against the minorities of the country”.
The Minister said that the Bill is not against minorities but against infiltrators. Amid massive uproar, an animated Amit Shah claimed that the Congress "divided" the country on the basis of religion during partition and that is why it was necessary to bring the bill.
The Home Minister said that the proposed legislation is being brought on the basis of reasonable classifications provided under the Constitution and it does not violate any of its provisions.
"Three neighbouring countries of India — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — state in their Constitution that Islam is their law of the land. During partition, Nehru-Liaqat agreement was signed to safeguard the rights of the minorities. The agreement was fulfilled properly in India but not elsewhere, due to which Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians were ill-treated," said Amit Shah while claiming that this bill will safeguard the non-Muslims from religious persecution in those countries.
Saugata Roy, of the Trinamool Congress, opposed the introduction of the Bill, saying that Shah’s defence that “Muslims were not mentioned” in the Bill holds no water.
'Violation of constitution'
“The Citizenship Amendment Bill is divisive and unconstitutional, it violates article 14 of the constitution. This law is against everything our founding fathers including Dr.Ambedkar envisioned” Roy said amid protests from the BJP MPs.
Saugata Roy,TMC in Lok Sabha: This bill is divisive and unconstitutional, it violates article 14 of the constitution. This law is against everything our founding fathers including Dr.Ambedkar envisioned. #CitizenshipAmendmentBill2019 pic.twitter.com/g0lt1HcqS2— ANI (@ANI) December 9, 2019
K Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party said that the "bill violates the basic structural features of the constitution envisioned in the preamble as entitlement of citizenship based on religion is against the secular fabric of the country."
E.T. Mohammed Basheer of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress, Shashi Tharoor of the Congress and Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimee also spoke against the introduction of the Bill.
Owaisi hit out at the home minister, comparing him to Hitler. “I appeal to you (Speaker), save the country from such a law and save home minister also,” Owaisi said. “Otherwise like in Nuremberg race laws and Israel’s citizenship act, the home minister’s name will be featured with Hitler [German dictator] and David Ben-Gurion [former Israeli PM].”
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla later said that this comment would be purged from the record.
The speaker said that he had received multiple notices against the Bill, citing that it violated Articles 5, 10, 14, 15, 25 and 26 of the constitution.
CPI(M) also demanded that specific references to the mentioned countries in the bill be replaced by "all neighbouring countries", and that all references to religions be removed.
Protests across India
Protests reached the streets as well. While Indian Union Muslim League MPs protested in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue within Parliament premises, the AIUDF demonstrated at Jantar Mantar and held up placards saying that the bill was against the idea of India.
"We reject this bill. It is against the Constitution and against Hindu-Muslim unity," Badruddin Ajmal, AIUDF MP from Dhubri, Assam, told reporters when asked about the CAB.
Shiv Sena - BJP’s former allies in Maharashtra, who remain a part of the NDA - took the middle road, saying that although it advocated citizenship for immigrant Hindus, it stood against allowing voting rights to illegal ‘intruders’.
Illegal Intruders should be thrown out . immigrant Hindus must be given citizenship,but @AmitShah let's give rest to allegations of creating vote bank & not give them voting rights,what say ? And yes what about pandits,have they gone back to kashmir after article 370 was removed— Sanjay Raut (@rautsanjay61) December 9, 2019
Meanwhile in northeastern India, the bill has faced massive protest. A large section of people have taken to the streets, 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.
As many as 16 left-leaning organisations have called for a 12-hour Assam bandh on December 10 to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The North East Students' Organisation (NESO) has already called for an 11-hour North East bandh from 5am on Tuesday on the same issue.