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'How Will We Function?' Amit Shah's Logic For Excluding Muslims From Citizenship Bill, With an Assurance


Last Updated: December 11, 2019, 14:41 IST

Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in Rajya Sabha.

Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in Rajya Sabha.

Amit Shah said the Citizenship Amendment Bill is only for minority communities of neighbouring countries and has nothing to do with Muslims in India.

New Delhi: Union home minister Amit Shah on Wednesday introduced the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha by saying that "Muslims in India had no reason to worry since they were given full protection by Narendra Modi government."

"There are attempts to spread misinformation that this bill is against Muslims. Let me put it on record that it is not. This bill is only for minority communities of neighbouring countries. It has nothing to do with Muslims in India," Amit Shah said.

But on the objection raised by opposition members about exclusion of only Muslims from the bill, Shah said, India would “not be able to function” if they too were included. "Do you want us to grant citizenship to Muslims from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, from Bangladesh, from the entire world? How can that be? How will we function if that happens?" he asked.

The Bill has been criticised by the Opposition led by Congress and civil society as it seeks to make religion a criteria for gaining Indian citizenship, which is a first in India. Critics of the bill have questioned why, if the intention is to give sanctuary to persecuted minorities, have the Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan for example not been included.

Before the Bill was introduced in the Upper House, the Trinamool Congress moved a motion seeking its disqualification, saying that it was defective as none of the six clauses mention the fact that citizenship will only be provided to persecuted minorities of the three neighbouring countries.

The word "persecution" finds mention only in the Statement of Objects and Reasons delivered by Shah. But Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu dismissed the motion.

The home minister said citizenship was being offered to those who had been persecuted on religious lines. "Where should those lakhs of crores of people go? Do they have the right to live or not? Should they be considered citizens or not?"

Shah said that concerns over such an important legislation were bound to arise from members of ruling and opposition camps. "I will not leave the house until I have answered each and every query. Only, just don't walk out."

Shah also tried to allay the fears of people in North East states, some of which have been put under restrictions following intense protests. "We have given enough protection to all North East states. Entire Manipur has been notified. As far as Assam is concerned, in '85 the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presided over the Assam accord. The accord promised to protect the cultural identity of Assamese and promised them to constitute a committee under clause 6. Till today, 35 years later, there has been no committee. But I want to assure all Assamese that the BJP government will protect your interests. Time has come to resolve the issue."

He added that, "People are accusing us that we are practicing vote bank politics with the introduction of this bill....but I want to point out that we had brought forward this bill before 2019 Lok Sabha elections."

While he was speaking on Assam, some members heckled Shah as they opposed his assertions that the interests of Assamese people would be taken care of. The telecast of the proceedings was cut when this happened.

Shah said that the bill will protect minorities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. "The ones who stayed back have faced persecution or have been converted...This bill will provide the persecuted a chance to provide for their families. The persecuted minorities have never got a chance to fend for their lives and rights," Amit Shah said.

The ruling BJP was successful in seeing a safe passage of this bill in Lok Sabha on Monday. However the bill is likely to face stiffer resistance in the upper house of the Parliament amid flip flops by parties like Shiv Sena and apparent infighting within BJP ally JD(U).

first published:December 11, 2019, 13:30 IST
last updated:December 11, 2019, 14:41 IST