Indian citizenship bill passed in Lok Sabha

Gautam Lahiri

10 December, 2019 12:00 AM printer

NEW DELHI: Indian Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday night amid protests by the opposition.

A total of 311 lawmakers voted for the bill while 80 opposed.

Earlier, the BJP-led government placed the ‘controversial’ citizenship amendment bill before the Lok Sabha on Monday, sparking opposition and debate on its merits and consequences.

Meanwhile, the northeastern part of the country burst into protests against the citizenship bill.

Some political parties, including Trinamool Congress, strongly opposed the bill.

Over 1,000 intellectuals of India have termed the bill unconstitutional and demanded its withdrawal.

Home Minister Amit Shah opened a debate on the citizenship amendment bill in the Lok Sabha.

He rejected the opposition claim that the change in law will grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

“You prove that this bill discriminates against anyone and I will withdraw it,” Shah told the Congress-led opposition in the Lok Sabha as he requested members to consider passing the legislation.

“This bill gives rights to people (who have faced religious persecution)… it does not snatch anyone’s (existing) rights,” Shah said, rebutting suggestions that the bill was driven by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s politics.

“There is no political agenda behind this bill. There is no question of doing injustice to anyone. With the passing of this bill, lakhs of crores of people will get rid of torturous life and become citizens of India,” he said.

After being passed by Lok Sabha, the bill needs to be ratified by Rajya Sabha.

The NDA government had introduced an early version of the citizenship bill in parliament during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term in office. But, the bill got stuck in the Rajya Sabha where they did not have the majority.

In Assam where an effort to update the citizens’ register is on, a significant proportion of the 1.9 million residents left out are Hindus.

In neighbouring West Bengal that is seen to be high on the BJP radar, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party have pointed to the Assam experience to underscore that the citizens’ register proposed by the Centre would spare no community.

It is in this context that Amit Shah had, during his public meetings in Bengal, messaged non-Muslims that they did not need to be worried about the citizens’ register that was designed to identify illegal immigrants, or infiltrators.