STATE TIMES NEWSNew Delhi: The Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Wednesday, choosing not to send the contentious Bill to a select panel for review. The Bill was passed with 125 votes in favour and 105 against it. Besides BJP, its allies such as JD-U and SAD, the legislation was supported by AIADMK, BJD, TDP and YSR-Congress. The Shiv Sena, a former ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, walked out before the vote.
‘LANDMARK DAY FOR INDIA’Oppn speaking Pak language on bill: ModiNew Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday described the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill by Parliament as a “landmark day” for India and its ethos of compassion and brotherhood.The bill will “alleviate sufferings of many who faced persecution for years” he wrote on Twitter. Modi also expressed gratitude to all members of Rajya Sabha who voted in favour of the bill. Earlier, while addressing the BJP parliamentary party meeting, the Prime Minister slammed the opposition over its stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, saying some parties spoke Pakistan’s language without “changing a comma or full stop”, and asserted that the proposed legislation will be written in “golden letters” in history.Modi said the Bill is as “historic” as the government’s decision to nullify Article 370, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters.People who fled religious persecution have long lived a life of “uncertainty” in India and will get “permanent relief” once the proposed law comes into effect, the Prime Minister said.Targeting the opposition, Modi said some of these parties are speaking the same language which Pakistan has used without “changing a comma or full stop”, sources quoting the Prime Minister said.His remarks were in an apparent reference to the claims of parties such as the Congress and the Trinamool Congress that the Bill discriminated against Muslims and violated the Constitution.Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had described the Bill as discriminatory and regressive.Sources said Modi told BJP parliamentarians to bust the “myths” being spread about the Bill. He said its passage in Parliament should not be the end of the matter and they should inform the masses, especially its beneficiaries, about its details, it is learnt.Once the Bill becomes a law, it will be written in “golden letters” as it speaks about the change it will bring in the lives of its intended beneficiaries, he said.The draft law intends to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis who have fled Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to religious persecution.Joshi told reporters that the government is “100 per cent” sure of the draft law’s passage in the Rajya Sabha.Turning the focus to the upcoming budget, Modi told BJP MPs to gather feedback from all sections of society, including farmers, traders, the poor, businessmen and industrialists, and share the inputs with the finance minister.When Modi entered the venue of the meeting, MPs gave him a standing ovation following the achievement of the Bill’s passage in Lok Sabha.This was the first parliamentary party meeting, which occurs every week during Parliament’s session, that he attended after skipping the earlier ones due to different engagements. This was also the last such meeting in the ongoing winter session, which is scheduled to end on Friday.On being greeted, Modi asked party MPs to give a standing ovation to the party’s big win in the Karnataka bypolls, noting that it swept it by wining 12 of 15 seats and bagged two constituencies it had earlier never won.A stable government in the state will speed up its development, he said.Modi also asked the BJP leaders to spread awareness about the Union government’s big achievements like the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and nullification of Article 370 during “Good Governance Day” the ruling dispensation observes on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birth anniversary on December 25.BJP MPs were advised to hold meetings with beneficiaries of the citizenship bill.Highlight his government’s “Fit India” campaign, he told them to take good care of their health as well while they are occupied with the concerns of the people, Joshi told reporters.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday. It will now go to the President for his assent. Earlier the House rejected a motion to have the Bill sent to a select committee of the House with 124 members voting against it as compared to 99 in its favour. The House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members to the bill, most by voice vote. Home Minister Amit Shah tried to fend off criticism over his government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha in his reply to the House, as protests against Bill escalated in the Northeast. Shah, who faced Rajya Sabha on Wednesday hours before the Bill was put to vote in the House, once again repeated the justification he made for the Bill in Lok Sabha-that it was the country’s partition in 1947 that made the proposed amendment necessary. The proposed amendment grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Parsis facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh but excludes Muslims. “The Citizenship Bill was necessitated because of the partition of the country,” Shah said in his reply in Rajya Sabha. “Partition on the basis of religion was the biggest mistake. Issues arising out of it not was resolved by subsequent governments,” he said, indirectly referring to Congress governments in the country.
He replied to criticism from Tamil Nadu parties, which ask why the Bill, if its stated intention was to protect minorities being persecuted, did not mention Sri Lankan Tamils, many of whom had fled their home country and come to India during the decades of war that ended in 2008.
“Laws have been made in the past to address problems of Tamils coming from Sri Lanka. Now a law is being made to address the problem from three other nations,” he said. “Some 8-9 lakh Tamils from Sri Lanka were given Indian citizenship in the past.”
Shah also addressed one of the primary criticisms against the Bill-that it discriminates on the basis of religion and means to exclude Muslims. He repeated arguments he made in Lok Sabha-that Muslims cannot be persecuted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all Muslim majority countries.
“Muslims are not included for giving citizenship because proposed law is for persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan”.
“Present laws have provision for giving citizenship to persecuted Muslims; 566 Muslims given Indian citizenship,” he said.
“The Citizenship Bill not to snatch anyone’s Indian citizenship. Muslims have no need to fear or worry,” he said.
The Bill has been criticised on the ground that it went against India’s fundamental grain of secularism, and that it violates Article 14-Right to Equality-of the Indian Constitution. To this, Shah said, “Equality guaranteed in Article 14 does not prohibit law based on reasonable classification.”
Shah, who moved the Bill in the House after it was passed in Lok Sabha, said Indian Muslims “were, are and will remain Indian citizens”.
The legislation, which allows citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who illegally migrated to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday.
Shah rejected the charge of vote bank politics, saying the BJP had declared its intention to bring such legislation in its election manifesto for the 2019 General Election and won the people’s approval.
He said Indian Muslims have nothing to worry about as they “were, are and will remain Indian citizens”.
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.
Rajya Sabha TV briefly stopped the telecast of proceedings when opposition members heckled Shah over his claims of protecting Assamese interests.
The citizenship law goes hand in hand with a contentious programme that began in Assam this year-all 3.3 crore residents of the state had to prove, with documentary evidence, that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens. About 20 lakh people were left off the state’s citizenship rolls after that exercise.
This is the second attempt by the Modi government to amend the citizenship law. In January, the legislation was passed in the lower house but lapsed as the Rajya Sabha didn’t take it up before dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
A group of 900 scientists and scholars issued a joint statement against it saying use of religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship is disturbing.
Several critics have called Shah’s arguments-that Muslims cannot be persecuted in Muslim majority countries-disingenuous, giving examples of Hazaras in Afghanistan and Shias and Ahmadis in Pakistan, all three of who face attacks in their home countries.
The Bill also faces protests from northeastern states of the country, who fear that it would lead to change in the areas’ demography.
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