LS nod to Citizenship bill amid Cong, Trinamool walkout

Introducing the bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the bill will pave the way for Indian citizenship to the "persecuted religious minorities"---the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis---from the three countries. PTI Photo

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to persons of six religious minorities, facing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangaladesh, with an explicit assurance from Home Minister Rajnath Singh that the legislation was not Assam-centric.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, had several shortcomings despite being examined by a Joint Committee of Parliament, and demanded that it be referred to a Select Committee for further scrutiny.

With the government rejecting the Congress demand, the party members staged a walkout without participating in the debate. A day-long shutdown was observed across Northeastern states in protest of the bill, with Opposition parties accusing the BJP of pushing for the legislation with the sole purpose of eyeing electoral benefits from it.

“There are 28 lakh Bengali Hindus who have been left out of the National Register of Citizens in Assam,” TMC leader Saugata Ray said adding that the BJP was hoping to get electoral benefits by granting them citizenship.

Ray claimed that he had not witnessed such “diabolical political action” in Independent India and urged the government to withdraw the bill.

BJP ally Shiv Sena also opposed the bill contending that it went against the spirit of the rights of "sons of the soil" having first claim on resources in the state.

Responding to a discussion on the bill, Rajnath made it clear that the bill was not confined to Assam, but would apply to all states and Union Territories.

“The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden and the government is committed to provide all help to the state government and people of Assam,” he said.

Rajnath said the bill seeks to provide citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis, who are being persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and who have fled to India before December 31, 2014.

“They have no place to go, except India,” he said adding even stalwarts such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sucheta Kriplani and Bhupinder Singh Mann had spoken in favour of granting citizenship to religious minorities from the the East and West Pakistan.

The minister said even former prime minister Manmohan Singh had spoken in favour of persecuted minorities in Bangladesh.

Rajnath said the Modi government had taken steps to properly implement the provisions of the Assam Accord and was effectively implementing the National Register of Citizens.

To questions on the inclusion of Christians in the ambit of the bill, the minister said they also were an indigenous community of India dating back to a thousand years.

“They have also suffered since the partition, so we have included them in the amended bill. How can there be a more secular bill,” Rajnath added.

AIUDF member Badruddin Ajmal, AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi, CPM member Mohammad Salim, RJD member Jayprakash Narayan Yadav, Independent member Pappu Yadav and IUML member P K Kunhalikutty opposed the Bill.

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LS nod to Citizenship bill amid Cong, Trinamool walkout

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