Home Minister Amit Shah on December 9 said in Lok Sabha that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 is not against minorities but against infiltrators.
The Bill grants Indian citizenship to immigrants from six non-Muslim religious communities coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has been criticised as being blatantly communal and anti-Muslim.
“This Bill does not do injustice to anyone,” Shah said. “It merely does justice to those who have been waiting for 70 years.” He referred to the circumstances of minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh as “hell-like”. “You always say that minorities must get special protection, then why not give special protection to minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan?”
“This is not our political agenda,” he continued. “It was our electoral promise; it is the will of the people.” Shah has argued that the Bill makes a “reasonable classification”, and so doesn’t violate the constitution.
Shah also said the concerns of Northeastern states had been addressed. “Manipur will be brought under the Inner Line Permit system, which has been a longstanding demand.” The Bill has been widely protested in the Northeast, particularly Assam, as it violates principles of the Assam Accord.
Manish Tewari of the Congress spoke after Shah, calling the Bill unconstitutional. Both Article 14 and Article 15 make this Bill against the idea of India and its founders, he said. “When can’t discriminate among citizens, how can discriminate while granting citizenship?” Tewari asked. “Reasonable classification means that equals can’t be treated as unequals, and when a refugee comes to India, we can’t decide on their treatment on the basis of religion.”