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Nehru Too Wanted Law for Religious Minorities, Does That Make Him Communal? PM Modi in LS

PM Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

PM Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

Modi said a year after signing the Nehru-Liaqat pact, Nehru had said, on the floor of the Lok Sabha, those who have come to India after facing persecution need to be given space here and if any law obstructed that process, it needed to be changed.

New Delhi: It was India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who talked about creating a new law to facilitate the entry and rehabilitation of religious minorities who were persecuted in other countries long before the present Union government did, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Parliament on Thursday. He was replying to the debate on Motion of Thanks to the President’s address.

Defending the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which was severely criticised by Opposition leaders over the past few days, Modi suggested the same concerns that had affected Nehru were also at the back of his mind while he had supervised the drafting of the CAA.

"The foundation of the 1950 Nehru-Liaqat pact was the safeguarding of the interests of the minorities in Pakistan. The agreement was done on the trust that religious minorities there will not be persecuted. Now the Congress needs to answer whether Nehru, who was such a big thinker, secularist, visionary leader... why did he in the pact mention 'religious minorities' instead of 'all citizens'"? Modi said.

Did conveying of such concerns for Hindu immigrants from Pakistan make Nehru a communal figure, Modi said.

Opposition leaders have been arguing that instead of specifically naming the persecuted religious minorities who will be given shelter in India, the union government should have kept the provisions under the CAA open for all groups persecuted on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, and language.

"Don't you think that there must have been compelling reasons for Nehru... the same reasons that we are talking about today?" Modi said, adding that one year before signing the agreement with his Pakistani counterpart, Liaqat Ali Khan, Nehru had written to the then chief minister of Assam, Gopinath Bardoloi, stating a clear distinction would have to be made between the Hindus who sought shelter in India and Muslim immigrants.

Modi said a year after signing the agreement, Nehru had said, on the floor of the Lok Sabha on November 5, 1950, there was no doubt that those who have come to India after facing persecution need to be given space here and if any law obstructed that process, it needed to be changed.

The PM quoted another speech made by Nehru in Parliament in which he had talked about persecution of Hindu minorities in what was then called East Pakistan or Bangladesh.

"What I'm saying is on basis on standing committee reports, letters, personal accounts... This was the sentiment of Nehru for religious minorities in our neighbouring countries. So does it make Nehru a communal figure? Do you think he created divisions between Hindus and Muslims? Did Nehru wish to create a Hindu rashtra?" Modi said in Parliament.

The CAA and the proposed pan-India implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have caused a massive, nationwide unrest with several social activists and even the BJP's own allies raising doubts about the exclusion of certain groups from the list mentioned in CAA. The BJP has, in fact, made it into a poll issue in the capital which is going to polls in two days from now.