‘Biased’ citizenship bill draws flak from MPs

The Opposition parties, led by the Congress, want the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in July, sent to a Standing Committee of Parliament. They say the amendments seek to give the granting of citizenship a religious twist.

The original Act, passed in 1955, lists the ways to acquire citizenship, denying to undocumented migrants. The amendments now seek to allow citizenship to undocumented migrants of all faiths barring Islam from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The 1955 Act defines an illegal migrant as a foreigner who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents or stays beyond the permitted time. But a key amendment reads: “In the Citizenship Act, 1955 …. the following proviso shall be inserted, namely: ‘Provided that persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act.”

In short, members of every major religious community barring Islam coming into India without legal passports or staying on without valid papers will be entitled to Indian citizenship after six years of residence in India.

Peeved Opposition MPs are now pushing for the Bill to be sent to a Standing Committee. A senior Congress member in the Rajya Sabha said: “This revives memories of 1947. How can one community be left out? India is not yet officially a Hindu state.”

Question of victimhood

However, defending the amendments, a senior Minister told The Hindu, “The principle is victimhood. How can a Muslim claim he has been victimised in these countries?” But what if a Muslim is victimised? The answer is, “He can always seek asylum in India.”

This reading fits into the RSS vocabulary. For years together, Bangladeshi Hindus who crossed into India were referred to as “migrants” by the Sangh, while Bangladeshi Muslims who came in were referred to as “infiltrators”. This, despite the fact that a vast majority of both groups were, in fact, economic migrants, crossing the border into India in search of work and a better life.

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 8:18:26 AM |

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