A heated debate preceded the passage of the Bill with several Opposition leaders questioning the humanity of and rationale for enacting citizenship legislation that excludes Muslims.

Citizenship Amendment Bill How voices of dissent confronted Amit Shah in ParliamentPTI
news Lok Sabha Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 12:45

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, introduced, discussed and passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday, was sharply criticized by Opposition MPs for excluding Muslims from its ambit. The Bill, which guarantees a path to citizenship for persecuted minorities— Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians— from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, leaves out Muslims. Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that this was because the three countries had adopted a state religion ie Islam and thus, its majority population ie Muslims would not face persecution. The debate in parliament on Monday saw several leaders from the Opposition counter this claim, among others. 

Speaking against the introduction of the Bill, Congress Legislative Party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury read out the preamble to the Constitution. He termed the Bill regressive, diversionary and exclusionary, warning that it would harm the integrity and unity of the country. After it was introduced, 

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor opined that the House lacked the legislative competence to debate the Bill. Arguing against the Bill, he said that India got its statehood on the basis of pluralism. “This Bill is not just an affront to the basic tenets of equality and religious non-discrimination that have been enshrined in our Constitution but also an all-out assault on the very idea of India that our forefathers gave their lives for during the freedom struggle. Our freedom movement was split on the issue of whether religion should be the determinant of nationhood. Those who believed in that were those who advocated the idea of Pakistan.”

He also said that the Bill omits Muslim minorities like Ahmadis in Pakistan, Persian and Hazaras in Afghanistan, and Rohingyas in Bangladesh, pointing out that the Bill ignores Myanmar altogether, even though we share a border with it.

DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran slammed the central government for being ‘preoccupied’ with its ‘hatred of Muslims’. Comparing the persecuted minority groups mentioned in the BJP's election manifesto and those mentioned in the Bill, Maran said, “I was quite surprised to see in the Bill that you added Christians. The same love (for Christians) was not there when you had prepared your manifesto. It was prepared to get votes, and to ensure that you divide the country against the minorities, and especially to go against the Christians and Muslims. When it comes to the Bill, you have added `Christians’. Probably because of the fear of the West; probably because the fear of you being isolated by the West has crept into you to put Christians in the Bill.”

Abhishek Banerjee of the TMC said that the Bill was immoral, unethical and unconstitutional. Pointing out that the discussion on the CAB cannot be had without understanding the context of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), he asked the government, “If persecution and genuine concern is the real criteria, then anyone irrespective of religion should be considered for citizenship. How can citizenship be determined on the basis of religion? And if you are considerate towards the majority community here, then why only three countries?”

NCP leader Supriya Sule reasoned that the legislation would not stand scrutiny by the Supreme Court. “If the second largest community in this country today is feeling insecure, I think this Government needs to introspect. I appreciate that you are a supreme power and for the next four and a half years you are all going to rule. I think it is completely unfair if you are leaving anybody out. I just would request this to please not make anybody stateless in your own country. People are feeling insecure. I think it is our moral duty to stand by every community, caste and creed. The entire source and ethos of our democracy is equality,” she said.

In a passionate speech, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi contended that the Bill made Muslims stateless. Ripping up a copy of the Bill, he said that the legislation was an insult to India's freedom fighters, accusing the BJP-led government of working to marginalise Muslims in the country.

VCK chief Thirumavalavan slammed the Centre for lacking in basic human decency and stated, “Revolutionary leader Dr Ambedkar said that the generosity of the majority community and democracy lies in protecting the rights of the minority communities. In the name of majority community, you cannot be against the rights of the minorities. It is not only undemocratic but also of fascism. Through this Bill, it is evident that our country is heading towards fascism. It is the height of fascism to separate only particular religion and telling them they have no place in this country.”

Read: Explainer: Why Citizenship Amendment Bill is being called unconstitutional, divisive

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