The Bill, which leaves out Muslim refugees and determines citizenship on the basis of religion, has been severely criticised.

AIADMK votes in favour of Citizenship Amendment Bill despite exclusion of Lankan Tamils
news Citizenship Amendment Bill Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 07:24

The AIADMK, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, voted in support of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday, guarantees a path to citizenship for persecuted minorities— Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians— from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The legislation leaves out Muslims and decides the granting of citizenship on the basis of religion. Opposition leaders from the Congress, DMK and VCK, have slammed the Bill for violating the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

With 11 AIADMK MPs in the House, two of them spoke— S R Balasubramaniam and Vijila Sathyananth. The AIADMK MPs requested Home Minister Amit Shah, who introduced the legislation, to add Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims within its ambit. In its current form, the Bill does not include either group. Nevertheless, the MPs assured the government of their support.

Speaking in favour of the Bill, SR Balasubramaniam said, “What is puzzling is certain areas have been left out. For example, in Tamil Nadu, we are concerned that Sri Lankan refugees who have come to India and are living here for past many years, are not entitled to become citizens of this country whether he is a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Christian or any community. More particularly, in the refugees from Sri Lanka, there are Muslims also. The state has been left out, the people have been left out and the Muslims have been completely left out.”

He also asked what became of Muslim, Hindu and Christians who chose to stay back in India after the Bangladesh Liberation War. Stating that those who flee persecution belong to a particular political opinion and could be Muslims too, he asked, "Not all of them are Hindus. Some of them have stayed back. Are they not entitled to the citizenship of this country?”

Appealing to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to add their names as well as that of Muslims, Subramaniam added, “But of course, we are supporting the Bill. We support the Bill. This is our position.”

The AIADMK’s move to support the Bill despite its exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamils is a U-turn for the party under the leadership of Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. Only three years ago, in 2016, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa had promised that her party would take steps to get a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka and will demand that the Centre award dual citizenship for refugees from Sri Lanka.

Referring to the exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamils from the Bill, AIADMK’s Vijila Sathyanath said, “As we are supporting the Bill, I would like to bring to this august House a few apprehensions and suggestions that our dynamic Home Minister may take into account, especially that has been given by (late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa). She asserted that she would take continuous steps to attain a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka and demanded the Centre to grant dual citizenship for refugees from the island nation living in our state.”

She added that Jayalalithaa had also opposed attempts to repatriate the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. “(Jayalalithaa) stressed that AIADMK's policy was that any repatriation would be voluntary and based on the choice of refugees,” said the MP, adding that the Tamil refugees did not possess any document in support of their status apart from the ID cards issued when they arrived.

“Most of these people are living in India for than 25- 30 years. About 90 percent of them belong to the Hindu religion, so as these Sri Lankan refugees fulfill all the required criteria, other that they are mentioned illegal migrant, keeping in mind, the experience of their persecution and the status of being persons of Indian origin, I plead to our Home Minister kindly include and consider that Citizenship Bill also take into account the Sri Lankan refugees and give them Indian citizenship,” the MP said in support of the Bill.

Though DMK MP Tiruchy Siva moved an amendment to include Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims in the bill, the amendment was defeated. AIADMK voted in favour of the bill, despite this.



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