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Lok Sabha burns midnight oil to pass Citizenship Amendment Bill

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Amit Shah

New Delhi, Dec 10 : The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, which seeks to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday midnight though it was vehemently opposed by the major opposition parties which described it as “anti-Muslim”.

However, the government rejected the opposition’s claims, saying the Bill does not affect the Muslim community residing in the country.

The draft legislation was passed after division of votes with 311 in its favour and 80 against it, following a marathon debate which continued till 12.06 a.m. on Tuesday after beginning at about 4 p.m. on Monday. A total of 48 Parliamentarians took part in the debate.

The Bill would now be moved in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday to cross its final hurdle before becoming a law to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The Treasury benches called it a historical Bill while the opposition dubbed the move as one to “kill secularism and Constitution of India” and “another attempt of partition” in the country in the name of religion and “violation of Article 14 of the Constitution”.

Major opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK), All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), AIUDF, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party and YSR Congress Party opposed the Bill citing various articles of the Constitution.

In his concluding reply, Union Home Minister Amit Shah rejected the allegations of opposition members, saying the Bill is a move to “end the atrocities against crores of migrants”.

“I assure that the Bill does not violate any article of the Constitution and that no citizen will be deprived of one’s rights. An attempt is being made to keep the Bill in bad light.”

“Every citizen has been given a place in the Bill on the basis of reasonable
classification,” he added.

Shah said the Bill seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The Home Minister said that the Bill has been taken after analysing the Constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Referring to the Nehru-Liaquat Ali Khan agreement signed in 1950 after the Partition of India, Shah said it was agreed to protect the rights of minorities, but only India followed it. Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists faced atrocities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, he said.

Shah clarified that the Muslim community was not persecuted in the three Islamic countries, and the Bill specifically mentions to provide citizenship to six religious persecuted minorities.

“The people of the six minority communities who migrated to India following religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be given Indian citizenship as per this Bill. They are being given citizenship on the basis of reasonable classification. The Bill does not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution,” Shah said.

He also said the Bill is not against the Muslim community and that if any Muslim seeks citizenship in India based on rules, he will be entertained as per the Article of the Bill.

“The Bill does not affect the Muslims residing in this country. The Muslims residing here will not face any problem. They live with dignity and will live with the same dignity,” Shah said.

He declared that Manipur would be brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and with that the problems of all the northeastern states would be taken care of as mentioned in the Citizenship Bill.

He said that Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, leaving few parts, are ILP protected.

The Home Minister reassured that no provision of Article 371 would be violated by this Bill and the Article will never be touched.

The linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of the northeast would be preserved and this Bill contains the solution to the problems of the people of these states, as the provisions of the amendment have been incorporated after marathon deliberations with various stakeholders from the northeast for the last one month.

Shah said the provisions of the amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955, which was enacted to provide for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship, would not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

The Bill, he said, also seeks to amend the Third Schedule to the Act to make applicants belonging to the six minority communities from the three countries eligible for citizenship by naturalisation if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of the existing eleven years.

Shah said the Bill no where targets India’s minority community, but illegal immigrants and Rohingyas would not be allowed to stay in the country at any cost.

The Home Minister said that there is no merit in the questions raised by members on the competence of the Parliament to discuss this Bill on the ground that it is against the basic structure and ethos of the Constitution. “I want to assure the nation that this Bill is not against any provision of the Constitution of India,” he said.

Shah also accused Congress of dividing the country on the basis of religion during Partition, saying “if the Congress had not done the Partition of the country based on religion, the government would not have brought the Citizenship Bill”.

Initiating the debate over the Bill, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari hit back at Shah for accusing the Congress for the Partition of the country on the basis of religion.

“I want to remind them that the idea of Partition on the basis of religion was first floated in 1935 in Ahmedabad by (Veer) Savarkar at a Hindu Mahasabha session, and not (by the) Congress,” he said.

Tewari said the Bill was against Articles 14, 15, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution, and against the basic right of equality. The Bill was also against the principles of B.R. Amedkar, he added.

AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi tore a copy of the draft legislation in the Lok Sabh calling it “arbitrary in nature” and “against the Muslim community”.

“Another Partition is going to happen in the country. This Bill is against the Constitution of India and a disrespect to our freedom fighters. I tear the Bill, it is trying to divide our country,” Owaisi said.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

India

Citizenship query: It’s not unusual, Chidambaram comes out in Kanimozhi’s support

While non-Hindi speaking recruits to central government posts quickly learn functional spoken Hindi, why cannot Hindi-speaking recruits to these posts learn functional spoken English? the senior Congress leader asked.

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P Chidambaram

New Delhi: Former Union Minister P Chidambaram, a native of Tamil Nadu, has come out in support of DMK MP Kanimozhi, who had tweeted about an incident at an airport wherein she was asked about her citizenship and pointed to his own experiences.

“The unpleasant experience of DMK MP Kanimozhi at the Chennai airport is not unusual. I (too) have experienced similar taunts from government officers and ordinary citizens, who insisted that I speak in Hindi during telephone conversations, and sometimes even face to face,” Chidambaram said.

Read: CISF orders inquiry after DMK MP Kanimozhi asked ‘are you Indian’ at Chennai airport

The former Union Minister said: “If the Centre is genuinely committed to both Hindi and English being the official languages of India, it must insist that all central government employees are bilingual in Hindi and English.”

While non-Hindi speaking recruits to central government posts quickly learn functional spoken Hindi, why cannot Hindi-speaking recruits to these posts learn functional spoken English?” the senior Congress leader asked.

Meanwhile, the BJP has dismissed her allegation as ‘electoral stunt’. BJP General Secretary (Organisation) BL Santhosh tweeted to counter Kanimozhi’s charge, saying that “assembly elections are 8 months away … the campaign starts”.

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India

Amid reconciliation talks, Congress leaders hint at Rahul-Pilot meet

Meanwhile, the Gehlot camp in Jaisalmer is keeping a wary eye on any development in Delhi vis-a-vis the proposed meeting.

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Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot

Jaipur, Aug 10 : Political circles in Rajasthan were on Monday agog with talks of a likely resolution to the crisis arising out of rebellion by Congress MLAs owing allegiance to Sachin Pilot. Congress sources claimed that the Pilot camp lawmakers will meet Rajya Sabha MP KC Venugopal during the day and even meet with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi thereafter.

The Congress sources said that veteran party leader Ahmed Patel had pitched in to resolve the issue that had threatened the survival of the Ashok Gehlot government after the Pilot camp raised a banner of revolt over the state leadership.

The Congress had sacked Pilot as Deputy Chief Minister and the Rajasthan Congress President. So far, Gehlot has stayed put in the CM chair amid claims and counter-claims on attempts to poach MLAs.

On Sunday night, a Congress Legislature Party meeting was held in a Jaisalmer hotel, where MLAs from the Gehlot camp are lodged. In this meeting, they held mixed views on taking back the rebels into the party fold.

While a few MLAs suggested that the rebel camp leader should be taken back in view of the “wafer-thin margin” of the Gehlot government over the opposition in the Assembly, others were not ready to budge and were not in favour of taking back the Pilot followers.

Meanwhile, the Gehlot camp in Jaisalmer is keeping a wary eye on any development in Delhi vis-a-vis the proposed meeting.

A senior Congress worker confirmed to IANS that a few Ministers from Rajasthan had hints to the meeting and that the views of party MLAs were sought ahead of the scheduled meeting on reinducting Pilot and his loyalist MLAs.

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India

Former President Pranab Mukherjee Tests Positive For Coronavirus

In a tweet, the former President said he has tested positive for Coronavirus and asked those who had come in his contact to isolate themselves.

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Pranab-Mukherjee

Former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday that he has tested positive for Covid-19.

In a tweet, the former President said he has tested positive for Coronavirus and asked those who had come in his contact to isolate themselves and get tested for the Coronavirus.

“On a visit to the hospital for a separate procedure, I have tested positive for COVID19 today.

I request the people who came in contact with me in the last week, to please self isolate and get tested for COVID-19,” the former President tweeted.

Pranab Mukherjee is one the several VIPs who have tested positive for Coronavirus. Earlier this month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah tested positive for Coronavirus and was admitted to a hospital in Gurugram, Haryana, The BJP’s UP chief, Swatantra Dev Singh, tested positive for the virus the same day.

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah also tested Covid-19 positive.

Veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek Bachchan, daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her daughter also tested positive for Coronavirus. Aishwarya and her daughter recovered and were released from the hospital. The Senior Bachchan was also discharged from hospital after his tests came negative.

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