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Why do we need Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

Why do we need this Bill today? After independence, if Congress had not done partition on the basis of religion, then, today we would have not needed this Bill. Congress did partition on the basis of religion- Home Minister Shri Amit Shah on Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha on 9th Dec, 2019

Till the advent of a decisive and focused government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Indian politics had often been suffering from the deadly disease of vote-bank. Issues of national interest, cultural identity, civilizational causes, humanitarian and governance concerns are decided taking into account the considerations of vote-bank.

It was thus not surprising but really unfortunate to see that when the moment came to correct the injustices done to victims of the Radcliffe line which had demarcated a partitioned India in 1947 and had inflicted untold miseries on a large number of people, some political parties - especially those who have ruled India for the longest period of time - prioritized their interests based on vote-bank in Parliament.

It was ironical to see them opposing the Bill, more so because many leaders in the past in these parties had sometime argued in favour of minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh, as will be seen in this document.

Shifting goalposts these parties and their leaders have gone all out in opposing the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019. The parties which have most indulged in vote-bank politics, rule bordering states like West Bengal, are most loudly opposed to the passage of the Bill which will confer citizenship to large number of beleaguered people.

Indian National Congress which is responsible for the partition of the country and is the originator of problems in Assam, opposed the Bill in the House thereby giving a message that India does not really belong to persecuted Hindus and Sikhs.

People who advocate giving unrestrained and free entry to Rohingyas in India opposed the Bill simply because those who benefited from this were Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Parsis.

For them, it appears, that these minorities in our neighbouring countries have no human rights and especially Hindus 8: Sikhs don’t even deserve to be recognized as persecuted and therefore entitled to Indian citizenship.

It was really unfortunate to see the Congress opposing the Bill as a principle opposition party tooth and nail, it is known that the Congress, as a party has always historically betrayed the Hindus of Pakistan/East Pakistan and later Bangladesh. It has failed to keep its promise to protect them.

Trinamool Congress leaders, while participating in the debate Lok Sabha profusely quoted from Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda, one among the TMC group, while speaking claimed to be a Bengali Hinduand yet ironically the party decided to oppose this very Bill which intends and which will lift out of misery lakhs of helpless Bengali Hindu refugees. This dual standard, this political opportunism, to cater to the infiltrator vote-bank while dumping the Hindu refugees of West Bengal is a another historic act of betrayal.

The TMC has also betrayed the Matuas who will be benefited finally from the passage of this Bill. Apart from TMC, the Left parties had also voiced, many times in the past, their support for citizenship for this community but they turned out to be hypocrites on the floor of the House by opposing this Bill, which would have provided them that citizenship.

This only shows that the Congress, communist parties and the TMC have only used the refugees for furthering their political agenda and have never worked to give them a dignified existence and permanent citizenship in this country.

It is pertinent to also mention that the majority of these refugees are Schedule Castes however, and Ms.Mayawati who claim to be messiah of Harijans in India could not gather the courage to support the Bill fearing that this would antagonize their Muslim vote-bank.

The propaganda of the violation of Article 14, compromise with the secular character of the Constitution and that of the Bill being Anti-Muslim needs to be clarified to expose the hypocrisy and double-standards of Indian political opposition. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has clarified, not once but a number of times on the floor of both the Houses of Parliament in course of the debate on the Bill, that this has nothing to do with Indian Muslims, that all Muslims who are Indian citizens need not be worried on account of the passage of this Bill, that this Bill is not meant to take away anyone’s citizenship but is to confer citizenship.

Interestingly, if one were to look in the past, many prominent memebrs of the Constituent Assembly like Pt. Thakurdas Bhargava, Sardar Bhopinder Singh Man, Professor Shibbanlal Saxena on Ilth and 12th, August, 1949 raised their voice for giving citizenship to Hindus and Sikhs across the globe considering India as their only homeland though the idea was vetoed by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.

But today in the case of Pakistan’s failure to ensure the rights of its minorities, they become the responsibility of the Indian state and cannot be left to die or be faced with forced conversion. This was an unfinished agenda of the partition. Even the NDA-I government, under late Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had tried on similar lines by conferring special rights to District Collectors in Rajasthan and Gujarat to decide the applications of citizenship for Hindus and Sikhs refugees. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic commitment and promise made in 2014 and again in 2019, to pass the Bill and grant citizenship has now been fulfilled.

On the objection that the Bill discriminates against Muslims, it must be understood that it offers a future and a protected existence for minorities who in the three countries mentioned are facing religious persecution.

Since these three countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh are declared Islamic republics - and since Muslims are neither oppressed nor minorities in them they are not eligible for Indian citizenship.

This classification in the Bill qualifies the test of ‘Reasonable Classification’ for giving preferential treatment as has been laid down for Article 14 and is in consonance with the law of the land. There is no religious discrimination in the Bill, it ascertains the interests of the minorities and as per the commitment given to them during partition focuses on fulfilling that commitrnent.The opposition parties stand exposed, they have fumbled on their commitment to these refugees, they are blinded by vote-bank politics.

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee resigned from the Nehru Cabinet in opposition of Nehru-Liaqat Pact inked on 8th April, 1950.

He foresaw that the ‘Delhi Agreement’ would fail. It was unfortunate that in order to pander to a pseudo-secular conscience millions of refugees, who were the victims of religious persecution were sacrificed. Dr. Mookerjee’s words still ring true in the context of this debate, Let us not forget that the Hindus of East Bengal are entitled to the protection of India, not on humanitarian considerations alone, but by virtue of their sufferings and sacrifices, made cheerfully for generations, not for advancing their own parochial interest, but for laying the foundations of India’s political freedom and intellectual progress. It is the united voice of the leaders that are dead and of the youth that smilingly walked upto the gallows for India’s cause that calls for justice and fairplay at the hands of Free India of today. . .

That justice and fair-play has now been finally worked out with the passage of the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and deftly argued and piloted by Home Minister Shri Amit Shah. A historic wrong has been rectified, a historic commitment fulfilled.

This monograph attempts to look at the historic context of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, its various dimensions, debates it had generated, the present and gives a general overview of the entire debate.

Written By: Dr. Anirban Ganguly, Director
Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

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