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'Don't Make it Hindus vs Muslim’: BJP’s Ram Madhav Says Citizenship Bill to Offer Relief to Victims of Partition

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said the legislation is not discriminatory and there won't be any diplomatic ramifications on India's ties with neighbouring nations.

Marya Shakil | maryashakil

Updated:December 11, 2019, 3:09 PM IST
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'Don't Make it Hindus vs Muslim’: BJP’s Ram Madhav Says Citizenship Bill to Offer Relief to Victims of Partition
File photo of BJP leader Ram Madhav.

As the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is debated in Parliament and its proponents and opponents tussle on social media and on the streets, Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary and in-charge of Northeast, tells CNN-News18 in an interview that the legislation is not discriminatory and maintains there won't be any diplomatic ramifications on India's ties with neighbouring nations.

Your ally SAD (Shiromani Akali Dal) raised a valid question - why not Muslims? The home minister said that Muslims can't be persecuted in Islamic nations, but there are instances of Muslim activists in Bangladesh being at the receiving end of the state and Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan; so isn't this discrimination and singling out?

Look this bill is the continuation of the policy of providing rehabilitation to persecuted minorities in the neighbourhood. We had done it after Independence when there was large-scale migration of minorities from then Pakistan. We had done it during creation of Bangladesh...in fact the Indira-Mujib accord, the premise of that was that those 1.2 million minorities who migrated to India at the time would be absorbed by India and that accord was reached by Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at that time. So this has been a policy that's been going on. Remember, CAB is about providing an opportunity for inclusion in the citizenship list of the minorities; it's not about excluding anybody. It's a bill intended to include those minorities who have come to India as persecuted minorities and if they want citizenship they can claim it. The reason is that in the last seven decades, after 1950s, we have not extended this facility to these minorities. They have been living here for decades but have not been able to become an integral part of the society. Now the other issues you are raising are sectoral violence. There are political issues. Baloch people live in India, Tamils live in India, so there are various problems people in the neighbourhood face. They come to India as refugees. We always allowed them to live here as refugees. If they want to claim citizenship, there is a provision under the citizenship law here. They can always follow that law and take citizenship.

But why does this bill grant citizenship to everybody but Muslims? Isn't this unconstitutional?

First of all, you shouldn't give wrong info about the bill. It is not mentioned that 'everybody except Muslims', it's only mentioned that the minorities in erstwhile Pakistan, that is Pakistan and Bangladesh, and Afghanistan that include Hindus, Sikhs,Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians; not everybody except Muslims, that's not the wording in that. You are trying to make it Hindu vs Muslim, which it is not. It is about all the minorities. As I said, there is a great difference between those who come to India because of political reasons and sectoral issues. This particular bill is a legacy of the Partition we are carrying on our heads today. You remember these people who have migrated because of the emergence of two theocratic states in our neighbourhood, There number is more than 15 million, 1.5 crore people. They have been living without citizenship benefits in this country. This bill is intended for them, to offer them an opportunity to become citizens

Let me get to the specifics: as of December 2019, what is the estimate of the number of people who will be using this law of citizenship and who will in fact be benefiting from this bill?

No, that is something we will get to know... the actual figures. But the rough estimate is more than 15 million or 1.5 crore.

What proof will people have to show to prove they have been persecuted in these three countries?

No big evidence is required, except that they should be living in India for at least five years and the cutoff is December 31, 2014. Anybody who has entered India before December 31, 2014 belonging to the minority community of these three countries will be eligible to claim citizenship here.

So there is an assumption that they have been persecuted and that is why they have left the country?

Yes, obviously, a majority of them. There have been historical instances of persecution. The latest instance had happened against the minority Chakma in Bangladesh who had come to India in 1996-98 in large numbers. They had come to the north-eastern states. Successive migrations due to religious reasons have happened in our neighbourhood. You and I cannot shut our eyes to it, pretending that we are secular. We are secular but we have committed a sin of partitioning this country 70 years ago on religious lines. Victims of this are the minority people and you are duty bound to give them shelter and support.

You made special provisions for the north-eastern states as they expressed concerns and that has been included in the bill in terms of Inner Line Permit. Where will these people who have migrated settle now? Then home minister Rajnath Singh who was piloting the bill in 2016 had said the states will be taken on board, but the sense we are getting from different states is like West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is saying that she will not implement the bill in Bengal.

Some areas have been excluded in north-eastern states which come under 6th schedule or Inner Line Permit. Home minister Shah held consultations with all the CMs and civil society members as well. There are a few migrants who are living in these areas also. What will be their fate is a question. We are discussing it with the ministry to find a way out to extend these benefits to such people as well. We will make sure that the culture, religion, language and any other custom of every community in the Northeast is not affected. Once Parliament passes the bill, it becomes law, it will be part of Indian constitution. Then every state and every government in the country is obliged to follow the Constitution in letter and spirit, and nobody can say that we wont follow it. They have complaints, they can go to the court. There is a legal mechanism. But once it is law, no state can say that they don't accept it.

Are you concerned that this bill may have some diplomatic ramifications? If someone says that she has been persecuted in the neighbouring country, say in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Bangladesh, you give them the citizenship, then you are in turn leveling strong charges on that country of persecuting minorities.

We are not doing anything with respect to any other country. It is not a prospective bill or an open-ended bill. It is only for those who have come to India before December 31, 2014 and after living here for five years minimum. Under Citizenship Act, anybody can claim citizenship after living here for 12 years. This bill reduces that by half and you can start claiming citizenship if you happen to be from the minority communities in these three countries. The government will actively consider that and try to include them in the list of the citizens of the country. It is a benefit that we are extending to these people from the minority communities in these countries. We are not going to take up their cases with these countries. 1950 onward, millions of migrants have come to India and have been living for 20, 30, 40 years without citizenship facilities for them. People who are criticising it are not understanding this issue. Because of Partition, lakhs of people are living across the states without the citizenship rights.

Things have changed. India is a 72-year-old country now. In 2019 you are talking about this bill. You have very good relationship with Afghanistan and Bangladesh. If you undertake this, are you prepared for the diplomatic ramifications?

There are no ramifications. The bill is only limited to the Indian nation. It is not a prospective bill. Those who have already come over to India by December 2014 can now claim citizenship. Let me also tell you that they are free to go back to Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Nobody is compelling them to get the citizenship. It is a provision to include people in the citizenship list. It is not something to exclude anybody, neither are we going to take penal action against anybody.

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