The debate in the Lok Sabha on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has elicited interesting views. On the one hand, the Shiv Sena has raised questions about this bill; on the other, many parties, including the JD(U) that often questions issues related to intense nationalism, have openly supported it. Apart from the JD(U), BJD, YSR Congress and LJP have also supported the bill.
The stand of the Shiv Sena, which split the BJP last month with the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra, seems to contradict its ideology.
JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan Singh said that this bill was going to strengthen the spirit of secularism. He said the proposed legislation was about to rescue the refugees who had left their homes for their honour. The JD(U) leader said that this bill did not challenge the principle of secularism from any angle.
The BJD and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) are supporting this bill. However, the BJD suggested the inclusion of Sri Lankan refugees in the CAB even as there is no report of mass-scale emigration from the island country to India.
With the support of YSRCP that has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha, JD(U) with 16 members and BJD with 12 MPs, it is clear that the government will see the bill passed by a voice vote. With the support of these parties, it is clear that the NDA, which does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, can pass this bill in the Upper House as well, just like it did in the case of abolishing triple talaq and abrogating Article 370.
Chirag Paswan of the LJP said that his party supported this bill. He said that this had nothing to do with the people of India’s minority community. He said that this bill was related to minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He said, “I thank my home minister for giving importance to our concerns and incorporating the suggestions in this bill.”
Objections to CAB
INC leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that India had been upholding the idea of ‘live and let live’ for centuries. He said to the MPs of BJP, “Outside Parliament, you will spread a canard that the INC opposed the bill supporting Hindus. But we are not against giving asylum to any victim; it is, however, against the spirit of the Constitution as its basis is religious. Therefore, this bill should be reformed.”
“You did not include the people of Sri Lanka, China and any other country in this bill. You included only those countries, which are Muslim majority,” the INC leader from West Bengal said. Referring to Rabindranath Tagore, Chowdhury said that this country was an “ocean of humanity”.
INC’s Manish Tewari objected to Amit Shah’s observation that India’s first ruling party had yielded to MA Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Tewari said it was Hindu Mahasabha’s VD Savarkar who had proposed the two-nation theory first.
Putting forth the view of Shiv Sena, MP Vinayak Raut asked, “How many people have come from these three countries so far and how many people have been identified?” If all the people were given citizenship, he argued, the population of the country will increase greatly.
The home minister, Raut said, should explain by what extent the country’s burden will increase on the arrival of these people.
The persecution of people due to the partition of India in Pakistan and Bangladesh is understandable, but it is not understood that this is the subject of Afghanistan, the Shiv Sena said and added that Sri Lanka should be included in this bill. Raut said it would be better if Afghanistan is removed from this bill and Sri Lanka added instead.
The BSP is of the view that Muslims should be included in the CAB. Muslims who came to India at the time of the Bangladesh War or before or later should be given citizenship, said Afzal Ansari of the party. They are being denied citizenship by branding them as Bangladeshis, he said. “They did not come to India happily. If they had been treated well, they would not have left their country,” Afzal Ansari said, adding that a refugee had no caste, no religion.
NCP leader Supriya Sule opposed the CAB, saying, “It is not right for any community to remain outside the purview of the definition of a refugee. The bill violates Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.”