Replying to the debate in Lok Sabha on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 BJP National President and Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah on December 9, 2019 assured the house and entire nation that the Bill did not come in conflict with any other articles of the Constitution. We are publishing synopsis of the reply for our esteemed readers :
Anumber of Hon. Members have questioned the legislative competence of the House with reference to the rule 72(1). At the outset, I would like to assure the entire House, through you and the entire nation through all the honourable Members that the Bill does not come in conflict with any of the articles of the Constitution. Almost all the honourable Members have said that the article 14 has been violated. The article 14 does not put any restrictions on the enactment of any law on the ground of reasonable classification.
The decision to accord citizenship is not being taken up by the Government for the first time. It goes back to the year 1971 when the then Prime Minister decided to accord citizenship to all people who came from Bangladesh. But why were the people coming from Pakistan not granted citizenship? Thus, this Bill is also meant for those people who came from Bangladesh. The carnage has not come to a halt there. The incidents of subjecting people to selective religious persecution have taken place even after 1971. Thereafter, the people coming from Uganda were given refuge here and subsequently granted citizenship by none other than the Congress Government.
Honourable Rajiv Gandhi signed the Assam Accord. Consequently, all those who came to India till 1971 were again granted citizenship. Why had they not granted citizenship to persons coming from all over the world? The citizenship is granted on the ground of reasonable classification. If the way, the provisions of article 14 are being interpreted by the honourable Members, is applied to the interpretation of right to equality, then the special rights will cease to be available to the minorities. Whether the special educational rights available to them and the minority educational institutions are violative of the article 14?
A number of laws have been framed on the ground of reasonable classifications despite having the article 14 in the country. Three nations namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are bordering countries of India. The holy religion Islam has been mentioned as state religion in the constitutions of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and People’s Republic of Bangladesh. During partition, people migrated from here to there and from there to here. In 1950, the Nehru-Liyaqat accord was signed wherein both the countries guaranteed protection to the minorities in their respective countries. Unfortunately, the accord was complied with properly in our country but in all the three nations minorities were subjected to various sorts of persecution. The proposed Bill intends on the positive direction to grant citizenship to all the minorities who have been subjected to religious persecution. This Bill has not taken away any of the rights of the Muslim community. Anybody can apply for citizenship under the provision of the law of the land. All will be granted citizenship if the applications are found in order as per the rules.
In fact, why was this Bill required to be introduced? Certainly, it would not have been required to be brought in, if the Congress had not divided the country on the ground of religion. People who came to India from these three nations on the ground of religious persecution belong to six religions. It is proposed to grant those people the Indian Citizenship. This is what constitutes the ground for reasonable classification. Once again, I would like to state that the country will consider on all those applications submitted even by Muslims from these three nations. But, they are not entitled to avail of the benefits of this provision as they were not subjected to religious persecution. We have brought in this Bill on this very definite classification. Article 371 has been mentioned here. I would like to assure the hon. Member that the Bill does not violate any of the provisions contained in the Article 371. I firmly believe that this Bill comes under the purview of the legislative competence of this House. That’s why the leave of the House may please be granted for introduction of the Bill. The Bill, by leave of the House, was introduced.
Moving the motion for consideration of the Bill he said Lakhs and crores of people would get rid of their distressed life and become the citizens of India with pride. Nobody will be subjected to injustice and the people, waiting for justice for the last seventy years, would get justice. This Bill conforms to our manifesto which has been approved by 130 crore people of this country in the form of giving mandate to Modiji. Unity in diversity is the biggest formula for binding our country into one unit. Tolerance is our quality. We have never crossed our borders and attacked another country. We have accepted the changes with open heart. That is why this country exists for decades. Collective heart and mind is an integral part of our culture. This Bill explains the same feature. All of us accept secularism. We stand by this spirit of the Constitution that nobody should be discriminated on the basis of religion or creed and no one’s rights should be violated. But it is the duty of any government to secure the borders of its country and stop the infiltrators entering the country and identify the refugees and the infiltrators. We have accepted all the refugees who came to India in the year 1947. Most of them have adored high posts in this country. All of those refugees who came to the country till 1971 were given refuge and citizenship.
Later Indians were expelled from Uganda and they were given citizenship collectively. During Lanka crisis many Indians, who had gone to Srilanka, were given citizenship. No one questioned that. We also didn’t question that because we thought that it was the need of the hour. This Bill doesn’t discriminate with anyone; it is the Bill to give rights to someone and not to snatch someone’s rights. This Bill helps to provide Indian citizenship to those refugees from communities like Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian coming from our three neighbouring countries namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who faced religious persecution in their countries. There is also a provision in the Bill that no government officer can reject an application for citizenship on the grounds that some legal proceeding is going on against the applicant in respect of his or her illegal migration or citizenship. If someone is having some privilege, those rights or privileges will not be taken away after applying for citizenship under this provision, they will be given full protection.
The concerns of all the north-eastern states have been addressed in this Bill. I had a discussion for 119 hours with more than 140 institutes, NGOs, political parties which included the leaders of congress party from all states and the Chief Ministers of all the states. I have included all the suggestions given by them in this Bill.
Reply to the Motion
This Bill is to end the agony of millions of refugees who are subjected to persecution and leading a pitiable life. This Bill neither violates Article 14 nor Articles 21 and 25. It stands to test of Constitution. Whenever there is any intervention about the citizenship, it has been done to solve a specific problem, so this Bill is for the religious minorities came here from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Muslims are not minorities there. Their constitutions do not give Muslims the status of minority. There is no discrimination against Muslims in this country.
Here, it is being projected that injustice is being done to the Muslims of this country but the reality is contrary to it. I want to make it clear that the Rohingya will never be accepted. I would like to assure all the people belonging to minority communities that citizens belonging to any religion in the country need not to be afraid. This Government is committed to give security, equality and equal rights to all. It has been said here that the NRC and Citizenship Amendment Bill are trap. These can definitely be a trap for those who want to give shelter the infiltrators for their vote bank. There is a difference between infiltrators and refugees. People who are victimized and come here to save the honour of women of their families and to save their religion, are refugees and those, who illegally infiltrate are infiltrators. When the Government will implement NRC, not a single infiltrator will remain in this country. There is a difference between Article 370 and Article 371 and I would like to assure the entire North-Eastern Region that the Government will never tamper with Article 371.
Whenever any decision was taken on the issue of citizenship in this country, it was to solve a specific problem. Now, this Bill is to give citizenship to religious minorities came from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, so the question of China, Nepal and Sri Lanka does not arise. As far as Nepalese are concerned, as per the Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, Nepalese citizens are still getting citizenship easily on the basis of application they submit for the purpose. We need not to prepare any background for NRC, we are clear that NRC will be implemented in the whole country. This Bill is not in any way related to Muslims of this country. This bill is brought for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. With regard to Pakistan, if the NehruLiaqat agreement was implemented in letter and spirit and security and safety of Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis is ensured in Pakistan, they would not have to come here. But the Nehru-Liaqat agreement did not stand to the test of the time. According to a report by the UNHRC, there are now only 20 religious places of other religions left within Pakistan. The population of people of other religions in Pakistan was 23 per cent in 1947 which has decreased to just 3.7 now.
After creation of Bangladesh, Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed in Dhaka in 1972. No atrocities were committed against religious minorities in Bangladesh as long as Sheikh Saheb was there in power. After assassination of Sheikh Saheb in 1975, people belonging to minorities communities were subjected to atrocities and it had become impossible for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians to follow their religion there, so they took shelter here. Even in Afghanistan, there were 2 lakh Sikhs and Hindus before the year 1992, but by the year 2018 only 500 remained there. Religious places Gurudwaras and temples were destroyed there. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis flee to India due to atrocities committed against them by Talibanis. This Bill is brought to give them citizenship. This Government has brought this Bill to end the agony of millions of people who did not get citizenship, houses, jobs and health facilities etc. for the last 70 years. This document is going to be written in golden letters in the History. All these parties had not accepted them due to their vote bank politics. Tomorrow morning is going to be a Golden Dawn for these people.