The Lok Sabha today passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019. The Bill seeks to grant Indian Citizenship to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated to India after facing persecution on grounds of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, if they fulfil conditions for grant of citizenship. Introducing the Bill, Union Minister for Home Affairs, Amit Shah said that while no where does this bill target India’s minority community, but illegal immigrants would not be allowed to stay in the country at any cost.
Replying to the debate, Shah said that misconceptions are being spread about the bill that it is against any particular community, but this is a humanitarian step to grant citizenship to those who suffered for the last 70 years. He said that failure of the Nehru-Liaqat pact of 1950 is also one of the reasons of bringing about this Bill. He further said that it was Congress Party which accepted the partition of India on religious ground and therefore the need for the Bill was necessitated. The Home Minister also asked the members to distinguish between the genuine refuges and the intruders. Shah said that Narendra Modi Government is committed to security and all equal rights to all and there would be no discrimination based on the religion.
Shah said that the provisions of the amendments to the Act would not apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inner Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The Bill also seeks to amend the Third Schedule to the Act to make applicants belonging to the said communities from the aforesaid countries eligible for citizenship by naturalisation if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of the existing eleven years. Making an important announcement, Shah said that Manipur would be brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and with that the problems of all the North Eastern States would be taken care of. He said, all the apprehensions of the North-Eastern States and that of Sikkim were addressed in the Bill and that is the reason they are supporting this Bill.
Shah, while replying to the debate on the Bill, said that there is no political agenda behind this Bill but it is only a Constitutional process to give citizenship to those were denied basic civil rights for the last 70 years. He cited the provisions from Constitutions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh where they provide for a specific state religion. In this scenario, Shah stated that these countries have had a history of persecution of religious minorities viz., Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day-to-day life where right to practice, profess and propagate their religion has been obstructed and restricted. Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents.