Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Rethink exclusion of Muslims, allies tell government

Giving chase: A policeman charges at students taking part in a protest in Guwahati on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Asking the government to “rethink” and “revise” the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), allies of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday sought inclusion of Muslims and those from all neighbouring countries, particularly Sri Lanka, in the Bill.

Several MPs who spoke in support of the Bill, which provides for grant of citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, raised apprehensions over the exclusions. The MPs from parties allied with the BJP asked the government to address their concerns, while reiterating their support for the Bill.

S.R. Balasubramoniyan of the AIADMK said: “What is puzzling is that certain areas have been left out. For example, Sri Lankan Tamils have been living in Tamil Nadu, but are not eligible for citizenship... I appeal to the government, to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, to revisit and rethink.”

His AIADMK colleague, Vijila Sathyanath, said there were a “few apprehensions and suggestions”. Citing statements from the late AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha, Ms. Sathyanath said “Amma had demanded citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamils living in the State.” She pleaded to the Home Minister to include Sri Lankan Tamils.

Balwinder Singh Bhunder of the Shiromani Akali Dal said he welcomed the Bill, but he suggested to the Home Minister that the list of religious communities mentioned in the Bill be replaced with “minorities” and the three countries specified be changed to “neighbouring countries”.

Sikh migrants

He also asked for a clarification on what would happen to Sikh migrants coming to India now, given that the cut-off date for grant of citizenship under the Bill is December 31, 2014.

V. Vijaisai Reddy of the YSR Congress Party said: “I, on behalf of my party, support this Bill. However, YSR Congress Party believes in respecting all religions.” He said he had a suggestion that the clause of the Bill that restricts it to six minority communities in three countries “should be avoided”.

He said there was persecution among minorities within Islam such as Bohras and Ahmadiyas and that the government should consider their requests for asylum.

Supporting the Bill, Janata Dal(U) MP Ram Chandra Prasad Singh said the Opposition was raising concerns over the government’s planned National Register of Citizens, but, he said, the agenda would be “NRD — national register of development.”

“If there is any injustice with anyone on religious lines, do you think we will stand back? No, not at all,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:17:20 AM |

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